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Rail Budget may derail many unviable projects

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New Delhi: Having done a pre-budget hike of 14.2% in passenger fares and raised freight rates, Railway Minister Sadananda Gowda’s maiden budget is likely to adopt a realistic approach in announcing new trains, lines and survey in view of the cash crunch of Rs 26,000 crore. With the growth in passenger earnings declining, the Railways are likely to spell out their strategy to earn additional revenue to reach the target in the current fiscal.

While many unviable projects may be scrapped, Gowda will also announce some new projects on priority basis in the rail budget 2014-2015 on Tuesday. Since the government is grappling with ever-increasing fuel cost, harnessing alternative energy like solar power and bio-diesel in a big way is likely to feature in the NDA government’s first Rail Budget as it is believed to be the vision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi who wants use of non-renewable energy in rail sector so that the dependence on fuel is less.

Gowda is likely to announce pilot project for introduction of automatic closing of doors in Shatabdi coaches and EMU coaches in Mumbai suburban train as safety measures for passengers to prevent accidental fall from running train. There will be provision for a few new trains including premium and services connecting various pilgrim centres in the Rail Budget 2014-15.

Managing passenger service through cross-subsidy from freight earnings, railways may spell out its policy on FDI to attract foreign capital in expansion of rail infrastructure including modernisation of station and high speed train. The Rail Budget will spell out details of future course of action plan for having a ‘Diamond Quadrilateral’ to run high speed trains.

The budget will also reflect the views of the NDA government on Rail Tariff Authority and High Speed Rail Authority. Though involvement of private players in big ticket projects is becoming a necessity now, the state-run transporter has to come out with win-win formula for investors in a hassle-free environment. Hinting at the possibility of private investment in rail sector, the Prime Minister had recently said that private parties would be ready to invest in rail sector like development of stations. “This would be a win-win situation project and we want to move ahead in this direction in the coming days,” Modi had said.

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