Railway Budget 2013: UPA express slows at poll signal

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SummaryIn the railway budget 2013-14 presented in Parliament on Tuesday, the Congress’ Pawan Kumar Bansal resisted the temptation for another grand vision for the financially stressed and operationally crippled national transporter ahead of an election year, but batted responsibly by setting economical revenue targets and realisable capital investment goals.

crore is proposed for 2013-14. The Plan is proposed to be financed through gross budgetary support of Rs 26,000 crore, Railways’ share in Road Safety Fund of Rs 2,000 crore, internal resources of Rs 14,260 crore, market borrowings of Rs 15,103 crore and an expected mobilisation of Rs 6,000 crore through the public private partnership (PPP) route.”

Of course, the level of investments proposed through the PPP route is not anywhere near the scale envisaged by expert panels like Sam Pitroda-led one (which spoke about cumulative investments of $120 billion for the railways’ network expansion and all-round modernisation) or the Planing Commission (which set Rs lakh crore investments through this route in the 12th Plan). But the minister has identified the priority areas for PPP projects with diligence. He said considering the “limited success” of PPP in the railway sector so far, the PPP model would be employed in Mumbai’s elevated rail corridor, parts of DFC, redevelopment of stations, freight terminals, power projects during the 12th Plan. Care has been taken to promote investments in new rail lines to connect iron ore and coal mining areas to ports. Bansal appealed to state governments to be pro-active on this front and mooted the Centre-State SPV route. The PPP sector attracted investments of only Rs 1,050 crore in 2012-13.

The minister admitted most of the projects announced in the past years on safety upgradation, laying of new lines, doubling and gauge conversion have been either stranded, reduced in size or delayed, but proposed construction of seven new lines and doubling of ten lines. Introduction of first AC Electrical Multiple Unit (EMU) on Mumbai suburban network, introduction of 72 additional services in Mumbai and 18 in Kolkata are among the metropolitan projects and suburban services proposed.

Providing free Wi-Fi facilities on several trains and getting some railway work done through the employment guarantee scheme are among important proposals. Bansal also announced a clutch of new projects including a forged wheel factory at Rae Bareli in collaboration with state-run RINL, a greenfield mainline electrical multiple units facility at Bhilwara in Rajasthan in collaboration with BHEL, another PSU.

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