ALSO READPublic spending to drive infrastructure growth over medium term: Experts Railways to use stations for skill development of youth Prabhu promises investor-friendly framework to make railways more efficient New rail minister Suresh Prabhu promises to deliver on safety, customer satisfaction Prabhu ropes in Vinod Rai to infuse transparency in Railways
Indian Railways would need at least $100 billion of investments to expand its network and improve service standards, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu said on Thursday, during his inaugural address at the Business Standard Infrastructure Summit. “Unlike roads and airports, which benefited (from investments), Indian Railways has not got its share of investments. That has caused many problems. We need to add 30,000 km of tracks across the country; that will cost about $50 billion,” Prabhu said, adding the spin-off benefits would be huge for manufacturing sectors. The minister further said long-delayed investments in India Railways could be raised through various means, such as mobilising funds of public-sector undertakings and tapping pension funds from countries like Australia and Canada.
These could give a major boost to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Make in India programme. Ravi Uppal, chief executive of Jindal Steel & Power, said logistics costs, at seven-eight per cent for the domestic manufacturing sector, were high. Making railways efficient by roping in the private sector could be a solution, he suggested. “There is a clear role for the private sector in creating the right benchmarks, like in the telecom sector, where private companies brought in efficiency.” Aniruddha Ganguly, president (strategy & development) of GMR Energy, said the government needed to shed control of some of its business; airlines, for example. “There is a great opportunity for road, rail and air transport. But there is no integrated plan, especially for last-mile connectivity. We need states to compete for this,” he said.