NEW DELHI: India and Japan are going to firm up an action plan for the first bullet train service between Mumbai and Ahmedabad as part of a comprehensive partnership agreement likely to be signed tomorrow by the two countries.
"Just wait for one day. Japan Prime Minister (Shinzo Abe) is coming, he will talk to our Prime Minister for a comprehensive partnership agreement which will address many issues," Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu said today at the 'Agenda Aaj Tak' event here when asked about the announcement of the bullet train project.
He indicated that Japan could help out with India's first bullet train project as also with the building of railways' research and design capabilities to address future challenges.
"There are many issues which were ignored for long and it (agreement) will address those, including safety, research and some special project (bullet train) will also be there," he said.
According to the proposed agreement, Japan will provide financial assistance to the tune of 81 per cent of the project cost as soft loan. The project cost of the 503-km-long Mumbai- Ahmedabad high-speed corridor is estimated to be about Rs 98,000 crore.
"Japan is going to help India in the field of passenger safety, punctuality, quality of service and freight. Railways' research wing, RDSO, will also be assisted by Japanese experts in building technical capabilities for the future, while Japan will also help in special projects (bullet train)," Prabhu said.
On the bullet train project, Prabhu further said that "it would be for a separate class, which will pay for using it".
He said that railways is facing a financial crunch and implementing pay commission recommendations would be a challenge for him and he was looking for ways to arrange funds for it.
Prabhu stressed that India needs to spend like China to built the railway infrastructure for meeting future needs. He said the need of the hour is to invest in rail infrastructure like the neighbouring country has done.
"For years, China invested around Rs 8-9 lakh crore to build its world-class infrastructure. India also needs money to overhaul its over-stressed railway infrastructure," he said.
He, however, said that regular earnings cannot be invested for infrastructure development and capacity augmentation.
"Money for improving services can be generated from regular revenues but, for capacity expansion on massive scale, huge capital infusion is needed. We need to take special fiscal measures to get funds," he said.
Holding that Indian Railways can help to increase India's GDP by 2-3 per cent, Prabhu said the existing railway infrastructure has reached saturation point and needs capacity augmentation.
"Our two main routes –- Delhi-Kolkata and Delhi-Mumbai -–are working at 150 per cent of capacity and need immediateattention. I am working on it and will take around three years to improve these two trunk routes."
Referring to the upcoming exclusive freight corridor, he said, "The dedicated freight corridor project will be ready in next three years and, once operational, a significant load will be shifted from the existing route, which will further boost our capacity."
He also spoke about the steps being taken for improving cleanliness, catering services and punctuality.
"We are bringing changes in cleanliness, food and punctuality, while new, modern design and comfortable coaches are ready which we will start introducing in phases.Transformation of railways was a mammoth exercise which will take years," he added.