The government on Wednesday notified the liberalised foreign direct investment (FDI) norms for Indian Railways, permitting 100 per cent foreign direct investment through automatic route in several areas, including high speed trains.
However, proposals involving FDI beyond 49 per cent in sensitive areas, from security point of view, will be placed before the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) for approval by the Railway Ministry on a case-to-case basis, a statement to the press issued by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) said.
The other areas where FDI would be allowed include suburban corridor projects through Public Private Partnership (PPP), dedicated freight lines, rolling stock including train sets, locomotives/coaches manufacturing and maintenance facilities, railway electrification, signalling systems, freight terminals, passenger terminals and infrastructure in industrial parks like railway line/sidings.
- - - - For the funds starved and highly subsidised Indian Railways a liberalized FDI regime will help the sector’s modernisation and expansion and would also lead to completion of several projects that have been pending for want of funds. According to estimates, the sector is facing a cash crunch of around Rs 29,000 crore and FDI will help mop up resources.
For the full text of the report in the New Indian Express, click here
Well, if Sri D V S Gowda, S W Railways, Railway ministry, DULT, and all those involved with "Namma Railu", have all been kind of vague in their responses to the umpteen queries raised by Sanjeev, Syed, and very many others, perhaps the answer lies in the fact that the Modi government has decided that as many of the future railway projects as possible should be worked under PPP, and, since financial implications can be huge, these besides would be better off FDI funded. And, now that it has been officially notified, perhaps, we can expect some movement soon.
But, Namma Railu, as conceived originally by PRAJA (and endorsed by RITES in their feasibility report), was to run more or less on the lines of "Mumbai Commuter Trains", which would have limited the total project cost to Rs 8,000 cr, for a 405 km spread, and thereby the ticeketing to very affordable levels too. I wonder if that would be possible if taking the FDI-funded PPP route. Not just that, I expect the project scope may go even beyond, and allow for swankier look and feel, like of the Metro, and mall-like developments of the stations, through concepts like "value capture", etc.
Well, somewhere along the debates on Praja, members had referred to Mumbai Commuter Trains as cattle-class. But, that is because their upgradation became impossible with the Mumbaikars dis-allowing even the slightest of fare increases for decades together. The irony of it all however is that, even with its fare levels being almost 5 to 10 times the levels in Mumbai Commuter Trains, for comparable distances, the new Reliance operated Metro between Versova and Ghatkopar is operating to near full capacity. Besides, following its success, the MMRDA (Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority) has announced 2nd and 3rd lines too, with even greater route-lengths, and apparently there are enough and more private players to take them up. Once they all become fully operational, perhaps the resistance to appropriate fare fixing for the Commuter Trains too will weaken, and then they too could get upgraded to Metro levels, through the PPP route.
All in all, the commuting experience is likely to become a lot more pleasant, and with improved frequency and speed, the commuting time would come down too. A fair bargain, one would think, even if the fare levels are going to go up, particularly if you appreciate the logic in the statement "Father used to walk 20 minutes to save Rs 20. Son spends Rs 20 to save 20 minutes", that I came across recently.
And, as for students, and those holding yellow ration cards (for people living below the poverty line), whatever subsidy the government may want to give on their monthly passes, may be directly credited into their Aadhaar linked bank accounts.
Is this where we are headed?