New Delhi, Feb 27 : Indian Railways is seeking greater role for private players in building rail infrastructure in the country, and this regard proposals have been made in the railway budget unveiled on Tuesday.
Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav proposed public-private partnership projects that will cost a trillion rupees in next five years.
The projects for port connectivity, freight corridors, container terminals and improved passenger amenities will go a long way towards making rail network modern and efficient.
The budget proposed 750 billion rupees to be invested in seven years on infrastructure, including dedicated freight corridors, additional rail lines, signaling works and flyovers.
A top railway official said that construction work on the ambitious eastern and western freight corridors, which would cover a combined distance of 2,743 km along the golden quadrangle, would start in the fiscal 2008-09, starting April.
"The cabinet has approved the project. The funding plan is that the eastern corridor will be done along with Internal Generation, GBS and multilateral funding. While the western corridor, will be done along with Internal Generation, GBS, JBSE funds," said K.C. Jena, Chairman of the Railway Board.
The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) gave thumbs up to Lalu Prasad's fifth Railway Budget in a row, saying that the initiatives would generate huge opportunities for the private sector to participate.
"An effort has been made to bring in a lot of balance in the railway budget this time and also to promote public-private partnership. And the main thing is that, in freight area, which is linked to business, he (Railway Minister) has tried to make provision for double-triple stacking," said Amit Mitra, FICCI Secretary-General.
Lalu Prasad reduced rail freight rates for petrol and diesel by five percent in moves, which could help the government stem rising inflation and woo voters ahead of elections due by May 2009.
Indian Railways, with a network of 63,332 kilometres, is the second largest in the world and moves about 16 million people and 2 million tonnes of cargo each day.