Following the change of government, the railways is taking strides towards becoming an investor-friendly sector as it opens up to private investment and FDI. In an interview with Rajat Arora, Railway Board chairman Arunendra Kumar says investors are optimistic on the sector, and private investment could be a game-changer.
The budget talks about FDI and PPP, but you haven’t given the specifics. How much do you expect and in which areas?
FDI is yet to be cleared by the cabinet, but we want it in every area (excluding rail operations), including station redevelopment, world-class station project, warehouses, loco and coach factories and railway lines. For PPP, we are focusing on the same areas. We are giving options to private players to choose their area and then we'll work out the modalities. Even the walls along railway stations could be built on PPP, and the investor can advertise on it.
You also said railway PSUs would be investing in infrastructure. How will this happen?
Our PSUs, such as Ircon, Rites and Concor, have cash and they can take up projects on the Built-Operate-Transfer model, or other models, such as annuity. It's a lucrative proposition for them. And it's not only the private sector we are expecting money from; public sector companies like SAIL and other PSUs would also want connectivity for projects.
How much money has been set aside for the dedicated freight corridor?
We'll be awarding 1000 km on both the corridors (east and west). The project is being closely monitored and the deadlines being adhered to. We have allocated R6,000 crore for the freight corridor. The RFQ document for the 534-km Sonnagar-Dankuni corridor on the eastern corridor, to be built on PPP, will be issued in September. Land for the project is being acquired.
When will the Rail Tariff authority become operational?
By the end of this year. The members will be selected first and, after that, we'll provide them with data and our project. The authority will start working after that. Its mandate won’t just be to decide fares, but also to find out how can the sector can grow.
How will the high-speed network be funded? when do we see it rolling?
The Chinese government did 71 studies on the high-speed corridor before it actually sanctioned the project. For such a high-cost project, we need to have more studies It can't be based on just one or two. We have constituted two studies