‘2022 was never a deadline for bullet train project’: Piyush Goyal
Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented her first Budget of the Modi 2.0 government, one that comes after an overwhelming mandate.
Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented her first Budget of the Modi 2.0 government, one that comes after an overwhelming mandate. As the government promises to modernise its railways and other modes of transport, rail minister Piyush Goyal spoke to Faizan Haider about the plans. Excerpts from the interview.
The Railways has been allocated Rs 1,60,76 crore, which is 20% higher than the previous year. Do you think the money is sufficient and how do you plan to spend it?
We have got exactly what we asked for. Railway has improved its performance over the years quite significantly and we have been meeting our capital expenditure target to a large extent, particularly last year. I am grateful to the honourable finance minister for providing adequate funds that we require for our expansion and modernisation plans.
The finance minister talked of Public Private Partnership (PPP) for faster growth. Have you identified areas where you will push for PPP?
We have an open mind, wherever it’s viable, and there will be investor interest, we will offer it to people. But at the end of the day, Indian Railway remains the government railway.
Recently, there was a controversy over a coach factory in Rai Bareli, where the Opposition said the Railway is planning to privatise it.
There was no controversy, it’s just a lack of understanding of some people. Either they don’t have a good understanding or they pretend not to understand.
Do we see trains being run by private players in future?
We will cross the bridge when we come to it. Nothing has been finalised and we are open to ideas.
What is going to be your focus in the second term? Last time you had focused on reducing the number of accidents and managed to bring it down to lowest ever in the history.
For me, we have a holistic vision to make this the world’s best railway. It includes better passenger amenities. It includes better infrastructure, more safety, more capacity to serve our passengers and obviously it also includes freight as an important element. So it’s not restricted to one or the other element only.
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What is the update on ambitious bullet train project? Do you think it will be completed before the 2022 deadline?
2022 was never a deadline; we will try to do a small portion by that time. The deadline as per the Japanese is December 2023. We have requested them if some portion of it can be fast-tracked.
Do you think the hike in fuel charge will have an impact on Indian Railway?
I don’t see any significant impact; we are moving so fast on electrification that I am not worried too much about it
The finance minister talked about an investment of Rs 50 lakh crore between 2018 and 2030. Which are the key areas in which you think these money will go?
We have drawn up a whole programme and it has been presented to me and we have gone through different iterations, in which some of the old projects like 100% electrification, advanced signalling, better passenger amenities, station development, those are already in public domain. Now, we have worked out what needs to be done to create additional capacities. So that our modal share of freight can once again start going up, the cost of logistics in the country can start coming down and our passengers, along with good amenities, can get more and more avenues to travel by train to reach their preferred destination.
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All of which will involve a lot of doubling, tripling, quadrupling, new dedicated freight corridor, some semi hi-speed corridors coming up, so it’s a very large gamut of investments across different areas, different sectors, for regional connectivity, connectivity to aspirational districts. It’s a large, holistic vision that we have worked out, both through government expenditure, through viability gap funding and through public private partnership.