Union Railway Minister Piyush Goyal, while launching BJP’s membership drive in Goa on Saturday, said that some sections of the Indian Railways could be opened up for investment from the private sector which could operate its own railway lines in return for licence fees.
“Private sector investment is necessary if the Indian Railways is to raise Rs 50 lakh crore over the next five years for modernisation and expansion of railway facilities across the country,” Goyal said.
“While the government has an open mind about attracting investment from the private sector, the Indian Railways by itself would not be privatised,” Goyal further said.
“There are different models we can follow. We want the Indian Railways to grow. There could be some sectors where the private sector can lay their own lines, we would not have a problem. They can take a licence from us. Railways will be able to increase its revenue. If it can increase its revenue, it will be able to give better facilities to its passengers. Our mind is open,” the Union minister further said while addressing the media.
“Railways belong to the government, it will stay with the government. The big investment (in the railways’ sector) belongs to the government and it will be in the service of the public,” he said.
It may be mentioned here that Goyal’s comments come at a time when the Opposition has slammed the ruling BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government for what they see as attempts being made to privatise the Railways.
Goyal also said, that over the last 65 years, until Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government began in 2014, freight traffic had shrunk 30 per cent and the infrastructure to passenger and freight traffic ratio had widened to astronomical proportions.
“We have also set an ambitious target for increasing of freight on the railways, which has now shrunk to 30 per cent. We have seen that in 65 years, before the advent of the Modi government, investment had reduced in the Indian Railways, as a result of which infrastructure has increased by only 30 per cent and the passenger and freight traffic has increased by 1,500 per cent. The estimate is obviously that passengers and freight will face discomfort and safety will be decreased due to overload,” Goyal said.
Piyush Goyal also said that while in 2013-14 the capital investment allocated to the Indian Railways was only Rs 40,000 crore to Rs 45,000 crore, in the current year, the expenditure on capital investment was Rs 1.60 lakh crore.
Commenting on the investment target of Rs 50 lakh crore announced by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in her Budget speech on Friday, Goyal said that the private sector would be critical to attaining the target.
“But when you look ahead, the government will not be able to invest Rs 50 lakh crore alone. Our efforts are to bring in technology of international standards, (attract) investment or a Public Private Partnership or a TOT (toll operate transfer) model, which yesterday Nirmala referred to,” Goyal said.