Special Correspondent

"A shift in thinking has brought about turnaround in Railways"

NEW DELHI: Terming the initial success story of the Railways as a "trailer," Railway Minister Lalu Prasad has declared that the full "movie" is yet to come.

At the same time, he ruled out "blanket privatisation" of the core sectors and said the Government was open to private public partnership (PPP) but not in an indiscriminate manner.

Addressing the inaugural session of the conference on "India's infrastructure needs with public-private partnerships: the international experience and perspective" here, Mr. Prasad said that against all odds and predictions of doom, the Railways has emerged stronger and financially much healthier without even raising tariffs. The cash surplus would take a quantum leap to touch Rs. 20,000 crores by the end of the current financial year without retrenchment, raising passenger fares and privatisation, something that has also left many experts wondering.

Ruling out indiscriminate privatisation, Mr. Prasad said he was not against private-public partnership in the country's largest manpower employing organisation. "I am not against private participation.

A lot of opportunities are being thrown up on this front but under my leadership the Railways will not be privatised at any cost," he asserted.

Mr. Prasad announced that the Railways would invest around Rs. 3,00,000 crore during the next five years for modernisation programmes and of this 40 per cent is expected to come from the PPP structure.

Core activities

He said core activities such as running of trains would remain with the Railways, while private players were welcome in non-core activities. They are also expected to be involved in running of container trains, construction of dedicated freight corridor, modernisation of railway stations and establishment of logistic parks and warehouses.

Mr. Prasad said that since he took over freight volumes grew by 8-10 per cent annually and growth in passenger volumes doubled. "We have played the volume game by bringing about synergy in demand-supply management. On the supply side, increase in axle load coupled with reduction in turnaround time of wagons from 7 to 5 days has contributed to an incremental loading capacity of 170 million tonnes resulting in a revenue of Rs. 10,000 crores," he said.

"It is a historical shift in the thinking, strategy and style of working in the Railways that has brought about this turnaround, " he said.