Kharge launches High Speed Rail Corporation stressing need for safe, reliable and affordable transport

The Railways on Tuesday set the ball rolling for privatising its passenger segment on its existing infrastructure with the launch of the High Speed Rail Corporation (HSRC).

Railway Minister Mallikarjun Kharge launched the HSRC as a fully-owned subsidiary of Rail Vikas Nigam Limited, which his predecessor Nitish Kumar had set up with the objective of raising extra budgetary resources — from the market and private investors.

Mr. Kharge, however, issued a word of caution against adopting new technology.

No technology for gratis

“You should not buy horses merely because horse shoes are freely available,” was Mr. Kharge’s caution. He stressed how technology could be made available for even free. “At times they tell us how cheap it is. The question is whether it suits us or not, not whether it is cheap or free.”

He launched the corporation at an “International Conference on High Speed Rail Travel — Low Cost Solutions.”

Mr. Kharge, however, underlined the need for high speed rail while focusing on providing a mass mode of safe, reliable and affordable transport. Railway Board Chairman Arunendra Kumar said the Corporation, as the implementing agency, would contribute in the joint venture to be formed under the Public Private Partnership mode. The other stakeholders could be the State governments and private investors, explained corporation chairman Satish Agnihotri.

Seven routes

The Railways have identified seven routes — all commercially viable — on which the mini high speed trains with a speed of 160 km per hour to 200 km per hour would be operated under the PPP mode.

Officials maintained a stoic silence when asked if the railways were giving away the most viable routes to the private sector.

Some of the routes identified are Ahmedabad-Mumbai, Amritsar-Ludhiana-Chandigarh-Delhi, Agra-Lucknow-Varanasi-Patna, Chennai-Thiruvananthapuram and Bangalore-Chennai. The first project to be implemented under the scheme will be the Mumbai-Ahmedabad route.

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