Bar certain operations, India wants private participation in all areas of railways, says rail minister Sadananda Gowda. At a press briefing after the budget, the minister spoke on FDI in the sector, improving services and on the budget’s criticism from political quarters. Excerpts
Will you allow FDI in projects such as bullet and high-speed trains, which require a huge financial outgo?
We need huge investments to run bullet trains. FDI is not allowed in railways at the moment. We have asked the commerce ministry to prepare a cabinet note proposing FDI in railway projects with a focus on the infrastructure sector, not on operations. Except operations, we want private sector participation in all areas. The cabinet will take call on allowing FDI in the sector.
What are your priorities in terms of improving services?
We have given more importance to security and cleanliness in this budget. While financial allocation for cleanliness has been raised by 40% over the previous budget, the allocation for passenger amenities and safety has been increased by 25% and 12%, respectively. We can't create a new railway — the railway has to be taken in a new direction. We will work towards a tamper-proof ticketing system. Catering services will also be improved.
What kind of pricing policy will you follow?
The railways would continue with the fuel adjustment cost (FAC) formula, under which there will be periodic adjustments in fares and freight rates once in six months.
What are your thoughts on transparency in project execution and private sector participation?
Transparency in administration, execution of projects and procurement will be given top priority. Strategic procurement policies will be adopted to make the procurement process transparent and more efficient. About 10 stations will be developed to international standards through the PPP model.
After getting responses from the private sector, we will disclose the names of the stations to be upgraded.
It’s our target that the bulk of future projects are financed through the PPP mode, including high-speed rail, which requires huge investments.
Any comments on the criticism from political parties that many states have been ignored in this budget?
We will be completing all the projects announced in previous budgets. No project announced in earlier budgets has been stopped.
Parties that have been protesting against my rail budget must understand that during the tenure of previous ministers, these states got the maximum numbe rof projects.