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Railway to use long term debt for development projects: Prabhu

Final touches to Rail Budget 2015-16

New Delhi: Ruling out privatisation, Union Minister Suresh Prabhu today said Railways will now depend largely on long-term borrowings rather than changes in passenger fares or using tax payers money for its various development projects.

“Loan is way forward (infrastructure) development. Countries like US, China and Europe have taken loans for development of their infrastructure,” Prabhu said in an interview to Lok Sabha TV.

Asked whether the government is going in for privatisation of railways in future, he explained: “We are taking debt for development of railways infrastructure, that means we are not doing privatisation. Besides there will be no burden of development on passenger fare as well as tax payers money.”

Prabhu expressed confidence that institutions like LIC (in India),pension funds and sovereign funds can provide debt and they will not insist on early repayment of loan.

“The LIC, pension fund and sovereign wealth funds don’t insist on repayment of loans in short term, rather they want us to pay in over 30 years,” he added.

On hitting the ground running, he quoted a famous saying, “Rome was not built in a day. There are few things which would be done this year like 3000 unmanned crossings will be removed and work will start immediately to improve cleanliness, safety, security and surveillance.”

The Minister hinted that some initiative like train-sets, redesigning of coaches, doubling and tripling of rail lines, may take longer than expected to be implemented.

On running of bullet trains in India, he said, “Our thrust would be on basic facilities first like sanitation, time bound arrival of trains which is going to be implemented in the stipulated time period. Those would be focus areas.”

On private participation in railways, Prabhu said that there would be a system to regulate private sector players willing to invest in station development projects.

On decentralisation of power to improve efficiency of railways, he said,”This will happen for the first time that more responsibility will be given to officers. It is not on Railway Minister or Railway Board which will do everything.”

Earlier, in his Budget speech, Prabhu said: “We will monetise our assets rather than sell them”.

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