Panel seeks R8 lakh cr for Rlys in 5 yrs

Written by fe Bureau | Updated: Feb 28 2012, 09:25am hrs
An expert committee on Railways has suggested that the countrys biggest transporter needs R8,22,671 crore over the next five years to modernise its operations. Majority of this expenditure can be met through gross budgetary support (GBS), internal generation and PPP.

The committee headed by Sam Pitroda has recommended that R2,50,000 crore could come as the GBS and another R2,01,805 could be met through internal accruals. The public private partnership (PPP), an area where Railways, despite having been emphasising a lot have completely failed, could also be another major source of funding for Railways. The committee expects about R2,29,024 crore to be flown in through PPP.

The target is to contribute at least 2% of the GDP of the country in future, Pitroda told reporters on Monday through video conferencing from Chicago.

Railways minister Dinesh Trivedi said the target was achievable and would depend on the availability of funds to finish the modernisation programme. Target is to contribute at least 2% of the GDP, and the time frame will depend on the flow of funds. I was not even waiting for the report to start working on the modernisation of Railways. Suppose, there

is funding, we can do it faster, he said.

The expert group has suggested that around 19,000 km of tracks should be modernised, while another 11,250 bridges should be strengthened to sustain the proposed high-speed trains.

Trivedi agreed that the Railways finances were in dire straits. We all understand that there is fund crunch, but we are capable of meeting the challenge. I think, modernisation of 19,000 km of tracks is quite doable, he said.

He clarified that there were no issues with the finance ministry and the Prime Ministers office over putting in more money into Railways. As Railways minister, my duty is to ask for funds. Everyone, including the Prime Minister and finance minister, are on board. As far as money is concerned, we are working as a team and I have no doubt that we cannot do it. Well not leave any stone unturned, he said.

Even though the minister kept insisting that the target can be achieved, he had no clear answers on where the money will come from for such an investment. I am asking for even less than 10% of what the government has envisaged to spend on infrastructure in the coming five-year plan. Im sure we can manage it, he said.

Coming back to the report, the committee has sought a dividend waiver of R24,000 crore. Besides, it has recommended that the railway board should be restructured and the role of chairman of the board should be more like that of a CEO. To push the private participation in Railways, the committee has recommended that there should be a new post for member PPP. Does it mean marginal privatisation Trivedi said a complete no to the privatisation of Railways.

Railways will remain 200% a government organisation. We are not even going to sell railway land," he said.