Indian rail budget promises high-speed trains

Minister appoints Dr Swaminathan to IPACSL as Chairperson

NEW DELHI, February 24, 2010 (AFP) – India’s rail minister announced Wednesday plans for high-speed trains for Asia’s largest rail network as she kept fares unchanged — underscoring the government’s focus on “inclusive growth”. Indian Railways boasts a network of 109,000 kilometers (67,730 miles) that transports some 18.5 million people daily on 14,000 passenger and freight trains.

Banerjee also promised better safety conditions on the rail network, where accidents are common. Trains will be equipped with new anti-collision devices and there will be better traffic signalling.

She said the railways — built by India’s former British colonial rulers — would not be privatised, saying she preferred “social responsibility to economic responsibility”.

But the minister appealed to industry to join hands with the left-leaning government to develop “business models” to boost earnings and fund expansion, and said there was a need to make policies “investment friendly”.

She said she wanted to enlist the private sector’s help to develop dilapidated infrastructure and promised a special task force to clear investment proposals in 100 days, where they can currently take many months or even years. “I am committed t