Image: Adnan Abidi / Reuters
Steering clear of populist measures, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman pushed for more privatisation and electrification of the Indian Railways in her Budget speech for 2020-2021. Over the next few years, as many as 150 private trains will be running on the Indian Railways network via the public-private partnership (PPP) model. The government aims to achieve electrification on 11,000 tracks, the Finance Minister laid out in her Budget speech.
Among steps announced to speed up modernisation of the Railways, Sitharaman proposed to set up a Kisan Rail, freight trains through the public-private partnership model. Such trains will help farmers transport their perishable products easily across the country, she added. The minister also proposed large solar power capacity to be set up alongside rail tracks, on land owned by the Railways.
A high-speed train between Mumbai and Ahmedabad will be actively pursued, Sitharaman added. Moreover, 550 wi-fi facilities have been commissioned at stations; four station redevelopment projects will be set up under PPP; more trains like the Tejas Express, India’s first semi high-speed and fully air-conditioned train, will be rolled out to connect tourist places. Sitharaman said that the Railways have eliminated the unmanned level crossings in the country, a move that goes a big way in enhancing safety.