The government has no plans to privatise the Indian Railways, but is open to allowing private investment in setting up high-speed, semi-high speed lines, Union Railways Minister Piyush Goyal said in the Lok Sabha on Friday. The minister added the government wants to convert the Modern Coach Factory (MCF) in Raebareli into the world’s largest in the next few years. During a discussion on the demand for grants for the Railways, Goyal said: “No one can privatise the railways.”
This comes at a time when the ambitious bullet train project between Mumbai and Ahmedabad, at an investment of Rs 1.1 trillion, is still stuck at the land acquisition stage. “There are some issues in the Palghar area relating to land acquisition. We are trying to find a solution to this in a sensitive way,” the minister said.
In the Union Budget 2019-20, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had the said national transporter would be encouraged to have private investment in several key areas including delivery of passenger and freight services, tracks and rolling stock manufacturing.
For the bullet train project, the final loan agreement of 100 billion yen is yet to be signed with Japanese government agency Japan International Cooperation Agency. As part of its effort to increase speed, the Railways has already launched Mission Raftaar, a multi-pronged strategy for running high-speed trains (with a speed of over 300 kmph/bullet trains), semi-high speed trains (between 160 to 200 kmph), increasing the speed of existing trains and introducing train sets similar to Train-18.
On the MCF project, Goyal said the plan was to increase its production to 5,000 units in the next few years. The factory was planned at a cost of Rs 3,192 crore, with annual production capacity of 1,000 coaches. In 2017-18, it manufactured 711 coaches, which increased to 1,425 coaches in 2018-19.
Also, the national transporter will go for 100 per cent electrification of its broad gauge tracks soon. “This will help the country in bringing down crude oil import bill,” he said.