(Fixes spelling in headline)
By Matthias Williams and Manoj Kumar
NEW DELHI, March 14 (Reuters) - India's railway
ministry plans to borrow 500 billion rupees ($10.02 billion)
from the market through the Indian Railway Finance Corporation
(IRFC) in the 2012/13 fiscal year, Railway Minister Dinesh
Trivedi said on Wednesday.
Speaking as he unveiled the ministry's budget to parliament,
he also said India planned to invest $147 billion in the
railways during the next five-year plan period that runs from
2012 to 2017.
The railway budget precedes the federal budget, to be
presented in parliament by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on
Friday, which is expected to push fiscal consolidation amid
slowing economic growth and high inflation.
India's railway network is one of the world's largest, but
years of low investment and populist policies have crimped
growth and hindered private investment in a sector seen as
crucial to the country's economic expansion.
"There has been considerable criticism of Indian railways in
regards to only partial implementation or sometimes no
implementation of the recommendation of several committees set
up in the past," Trivedi told parliament.
"We need to have a system that delivers," Trivedi said.
India planned to add 700 kilometres of new rail lines to its
network in the fiscal year starting in April, Trivedi said.
Successive railway ministers have belonged to powerful
regional allies of the ruling party in New Delhi, who have
tended to subsidise passenger fares at the expense of freight
traffic, making goods transport expensive and slow.
Passenger fares were last raised in the 2003/04 budget, a
year before India's ruling Congress party won its first term in
office. The refusal to raise fares has strained the ministry's
finances, which in turn has crimped the amount of money
available to lay new tracks and modernise signaling.
Clogged freight lines, slow delivery times and overcrowded
ports have dented Indian companies' competitiveness and slowed
the pace at which crucial commodities such as coal are
transported -- further aggravating India's power shortages.
($1 = 49.9250 Indian rupees)
(Reporting by Matthias Williams and Manoj Kumar; editing by
Malini Menon and Tony Munroe)