India’s government has announced plans to invest $137 billion in its railway network over the next five years. Announcing this news at the annual railway budget, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu said the cash boost will help modernize existing tracks and introduce faster trains. He left the heavily subsidized passenger fares unchanged, largely due to the steep drop in crude oil prices, which affects India’s diesel locomotives.
India’s railway network, the fourth largest in the world, is one of the important components of the country’s economy and the only sector with an independently presented budget.
In his budget speech Prabhu elaborated, “We want to work on these four goals: to deliver a sustained improvement in customer experience; make railways a safer means of travel; modernize infrastructure of railways and expand capacity and finally make railways financially self-sustainable.”
The state-run railways operate more than 12,000 trains. Prabhu plans to increase India’s track length from 70,836 miles to 85,749 miles by 2016—and improve the railway’s daily passenger carrying capacity to 30 million from 21 million.
Railway capital spending went up 84% to $15 billion per year in the new budget. The minister increased the funds allotment for passenger amenities by 67% and announced multiple initiatives including better ticketing facilities, upgraded stations and cleaner trains.