New Delhi: Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Saturday said that the work on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ambitious 508-km Ahmedabad-Mumbai High Speed train project will be actively pursued and also said that it will set up 'Kisan Rail' through public private partnership (PPP) for transportation of perishable goods.
Presenting the Union Budget 2020-21 in the Lok Sabha, Sitharaman said, "After coming to power in May within 100 days railways has eliminated unmanned level crossings, commissioned WiFi at 550 stations, and aims to achieve electrification of 27,000 kms of tracks for optimisation of cost."
She said that railways have small operating surplus.
"About Indian Railways there are five measures that I wish to highlight. Setting up a large solar power capacity along side the rail tracks on the land owned by railways. A proposal is under consideration," she said.
The national transporter also has planned to tap solar power to lower its expenses. The railways plans to become self sufficient in solar power by 2030.
"Four station redevelopment projects and operation of 150 passenger trains would be done through PPP mode. The process of inviting private participation is underway," the minister said. The railways has already invited private companies to bid for the project.
Till date, private players like Tata Realty and Infrastructure Ltd, Bombardier, Hyundai Rotem Company, CAF India, Hitachi India and South Asia, Essel Group, Adani Ports and SEZ, Talgo, Siemens Ltd, Alstom Transport and others have shown interest in the railways project.
"More Tejas-type trains to connect iconic tourist destinations. High speed train between Mumbai-Ahmedabad would be actively pursued," she said. The railways has already provided two Tejas trains to its catering arm Indian Rail Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) to operate the train on two routes.
The IRCTC is currently running two Tejas Express trains between New Delhi-Lucknow and Mumbai-Ahmedabad. The first service was started in October last year while the second service of the Tejas Express was started in January this year.
The 508-km Ahmedabad-Mumbai High Speed Rail project, also known as Bullet Train project, is supposed to be completed by 2023.
Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe on September 14, 2017 laid the foundation stone of the ambitious Rs 1.08 lakh crore ($17 billion) project. Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Union Railway Ministry have inked a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for the 508-km corridor with Japan to partially fund the project.
The railways has till date acquired 47 per cent land required for the project and aims to acquire the rest of the land in next six months. The bullet trains are expected to run at 350 kms per hour covering the 508 km distance in about two hours.
In comparison, trains currently running on the route take over seven hours to travel the distance, whereas flights take about an hour.
The Finance Minister further said that the 148-km Bengaluru suburban transport project at a cost of Rs 18,600 crore would be based on metro model.
"Central government will provide 20 per cent of the equity and it will also facilitate external assistance of 60 per cent of the project cost," she said. She further said that the Indian Railways will set up Kisan Rail through PPP arrangement, for transportation of perishable goods.
"The Indian Railways will set up a Kisan Rail through PPP to ferry perishable goods faster. They will have refrigerated coaches," the Finance Minister said.