India Inc now looks forward to expand rail network

New Delhi, Feb 24 (Calcutta Tube) Indian industry is largely satisfied with the rail budget proposals to keep freight rates mostly frozen and the decision to co-opt the private sector in expanding the country’s railroad network.

At the same time, leading industry lobbies have hoped for more clarity in the days ahead on how Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee plans to take the help of the private sector in executing various projects.

‘The railway minister has made the most encouraging announcements in terms of involvement of the private sector in the development of railways,’ said Chandrajit Banerjee, director general of the Conferedation of Indian Industry (CII).

‘We are particularly encouraged by the minister’s allusions to the proposed private-public-partnership projects. It is our belief that this would give the right signals to investors in India and abroad to look at Indian Railways in a new light.’

The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Assocham) also appreciated the freeze on freight rates, but said the budget was not explicit as to how railway land can be suitably utilised through public-private partnership schemes.

‘Ms. Banerjee has lost yet another opportunity, failing to come out with a detailed railway’s modernisation and upgradation programme by listing out her clear priorities,’ said Assocham president Swati Piramal.

On similar lines, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) said the main thrust of the budget was on opening up railways projects to the private sector to keep pace with India’s growth target 9-10 percent.

‘The laying down of a roadmap to meet the targets — short, medium and long term — would help in raising the activity level of the railways substantially in the near term,’ said FICCI president Harsh Pati Singhnia.

‘Administrative hassles have plagued many projects in the past. By announcing a new special structure that would be created in the railways to implement and expedite project clearance, the railway minister has encouraged investors.’

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