NEW DELHI: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman's stress for public-private partnerships to unleash faster development in the Indian Railways and the national transporter's need for Rs 50 lakh crore investment from 2018 to 2030 in her maiden Budget has evoked a positive reaction from stakeholders.
Alstom's India and South Asia Managing Director Alain Spohr said: "The Finance Minister has taken a holistic approach to prime up India's growth engine. This budget lays down a clear path India needs to take to become a $5 trillion economy."
Noting that connectivity through sustainable mobility is rightly identified as a great enabler to kickstart a virtuous cycle, he said: "A nation that moves faster will grow faster. The emphasis on the decongesting rail network, expanding metro lines, upgrading roads and linking water routes will greatly support faster and safer movement of freight and people."
He said that the Rs 100 crore fund to develop infrastructure over the next five years will also create avenues for job creation and bridge the urban-rural divide.
He also said the "forward-looking" budget "provides an opportunity for infra and manufacturing companies to align with government's Make In India programme to establish India as their manufacturing hub not just for domestic but also for global projects".
Manish Rathi, CEO and Co-Founder of RailYatri.in, said that the proposed budget focuses on some very important factors when it comes to transportation.
"The government's investment in road infrastructure will prove to be advantageous in the long run, especially for the transportation industry. The enhanced private participation in Indian Railways and metro connectivity will give further impetus towards creating integrated intercity connectivity in India," he said.
"We look forward to the simplification of regulatory framework regarding permits and licenses for intercity transportation in India allowing us to make deeper investments in the sector. This will help our SME partners i.e. bus operators by allowing them to ride upon the infrastructure enhancements," he added.
Former Railway Board Member Vijay Dutt described the budget as "very positive for the railways".
Noting that the "problem with railways is that the fares are subsidised, whereas there is no subsidy for railways", he said fund infusion is very important.
"Railway is the most climate-friendly and energy-efficient medium, but the migration to the roadways in the big way, the network of th railways not expanded in terms of the roadways.
"The network of railways increased only 26 per cent since Independence while the network of the roads increased by over 1,450 per cent from Rs 4-5 lakh km to 58 lakh kms," Dutt said.
He also welcomed the PPP model for the sector as "something very good". On the need of Rs 50 lakh crore investment till 2030, he said: "That is required as unless you expand the network, you cannot serve the people and you cannot reverse this from roads to trains."
In her maiden Budget speech, Sitharaman gave Indian Railways the highest ever outlay for capital expenditure amounting to Rs 1.6 lakh crore and a budgetary allocation of Rs 65,837 crore.
According to the budgetary estimates, the capex has been increased from Rs 1,58,658 crore in the interim budget to Rs 1,60,175.64 crore due to enhancement in gross budgetary support of Rs 1,250 crore and a Rs 267.64 crore contribution from Nirbhaya fund. This is the highest-ever allocation for the national transporter.
Railway officials said that the regular Budget capex was high by Rs 26,779 crore as compared to the actual Budget of 2018-19. Last year, the outlay for the railways was Rs 1.48 lakh crore while the Budget allocation was Rs 55,088 crore.
Sitharaman also said that the national transporter will be encouraged to invest more in the suburban network through special purpose vehicle structures such as the Rapid Regional Transport System. Railway stations modernisation will also be launched this year, she added.