Railways, it seems, are looking for a rail empire.
A new report suggests the organisation has the infrastructure and capital to build the project but the government’s own analysis says it needs a new source of funding, perhaps through a carbon tax.
The report, issued by the International Transport Research Institute (ITRI), says the rail industry needs to find a source of revenue for the railway project and that “one or more of the following options” should be considered: a carbon price, a new railway project, or an infrastructure bond.
“It is difficult to say where the railways will end up,” says ITRI senior director Rakesh Raja.
“The railways need to find revenue to fund the project, but it is unclear what that will be.
We don’t know how much the railways is funding.”
Railway sources say the report will not change their current plans for the project.
The Government has committed $1 billion for the new project and has also given a deadline of December 2020 to raise $2.5 billion to finance the rail line.
But the report suggests that will only go so far.
The railway industry wants to build a railway network and that will mean funding for the railways needs to come from other sources, such as a carbon levy, Raja says.
The railway industry is already facing some major hurdles with a lack of cash and its debt-ridden management of the railway sector, the report says.
“The railway sector has not had any cashflow, the number of train accidents has not increased since 2000, the industry has been plagued by debt, and there is a lot of uncertainty around the railway industry and the management of it,” says Ajay Kumar, president of the India Railway Employees Federation.
“So we are seeing some very big hurdles to overcome and that is a concern.
There is a need for a railway company that is going to be able to take on these challenges.”
The Railways have been asked to provide a timeline for the construction of the project and how it will be financed.
The railways is also expected to set up a committee of stakeholders to provide financial advice to the government on the project’s development.
In its first budget, the Government has also asked the railways to set aside Rs 10,000 crore to finance construction of a new line.
“We will take the project on board,” Raja said.
The Railway Ministry will soon submit the revised plan to the Cabinet.