Rlys auto hub launched, 9 to follow

Written by fe Bureaus | Kolkata | Updated: Nov 30 2009, 03:26am hrs
Railway minister Mamata Banerjee on Saturday laid the foundation stone for an automobile hub at Shalimar in Howrah. It is the first of 10 such hubs that railways has proposed to create on its land across the country. In presence of officials of the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM), she expressed her keenness to bring investment in the automobile sector in West Bengal. Banerjee shared the dias with representatives of Maruti Suzuki, Hyundai India and Tata Motors.

Banerjees initiative is an attempt to compensate for the loss, which Bengal suffered, as Tatas moved out of Singur and shifted their Nano project to Gujarat. Tatas had invested around Rs 1,500 crore in the Singur project and 80% of the project work was over when they had to leave following a prolonged agitation led by the Trinamool Congress.

The auto hubs will not only bring revenue to railways but also to the people of the areas where they would come up. India has a market and this initiative will be creating great business opportunities, she said.

She pointed out that railways has around 1,12,000 acres, of which nearly 21,000 acres have been provided for the dedicated freight corridor. We have such large tracts of land free of encroachment. We would like to utilise the land commercially. We do not intend to disturb the government structures, and want to create new opportunities through private investments. We need to encourage private investment to create more job opportunities, Banerjee said.

We will provide land to develop the auto hubs through the public-private-partnership model, she said.

At present only 2% of total goods transportation takes place via railways and it virtually has no share in transporting auto industry products. The auto hubs would help railways get a share of auto transportation and help it in achieving 15% share of the countrys total goods transportation it has been eyeing for.

According to Banerjee, while railways can help in quicker transportation, it also helps in reducing pollution because lesser the number of trucks plying, lesser the pollution.

We are going to have a meeting within the next seven to ten days so that our plan of creating auto hubs makes steady progress, Banerjee said.

Meanwhile, railway board member (traffic) Sri Prakash said that of the 14 Duronto Express trains announced, five are already on track and the rest are expected to start soon. The Yuva trains, which are aimed at serving passengers belonging to the low-income category, will be launched shortly.