India plans to spend $10.95 billion in 2014-15 on overhauling the country’s extensive but ageing railway network, the railway minister in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's cabinet announced in the Modi-led BJP government's first ever railway budget presentation Tuesday.
Railway Minister Sadananda Gowda told the country's parliament that the railways need $8.35 billion each year for the next 10 years, just to complete ongoing projects. He also added that private investment was needed to overhaul the country’s rail network and to boost the finances of the cash-strapped railways, though he did not provide details on how he plans to attract investors.
Gowda also announced plans to set up a “diamond quadrilateral”--a high speed rail corridor connecting major cities across the country--and said that a sum of $16.7 million had been earmarked for the initiation of the project.
“I seek cabinet approval for foreign direct investment in the Railways. The government will also look to fund future projects, including high-speed trains, via the public-private-partnership mode,” he said, presenting the budget in the parliament.
India’s vast rail network, which covers a total length of 71, 000 miles, transports over 23 million passengers every day. However, successive governments, choosing populism over reforms, have failed to tap into the revenue stream that can be generated through the network.
In June, the Modi-led government attempted to raise ticket fares by 14.2 percent to reduce $5 billion in government subsidies. However, the move was met with stiff opposition, following which the government was forced to partially rollback the hike.