|Railway Projects, in NE, as of October 26, 2013|
Photo: Business Standard
In a post-budget briefing, he also said that the Railways would continue with a Fuel Adjustment Cost formula under which there would be periodic hikes in fares and freight rates once in six months.
He announced a slew of passenger-focused measures - including proposing India's first bullet train to run on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad sector and 50 other new trains, several of them high speed. He promised cleaner, safer trains and stations and better food.
He also promised Wi-Fi on trains and easier ticket booking - 7200 e-bookings per minute.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Mr Gowda's budget "shows it's planned for the railways as a whole, not piecemeal planning as was done till now. It is not an ad hoc budget. It shows where we want the Railways to head and also where we want the country to head through the Railways."
Mr Gowda's main emphasis today was on making the Railways profitable. "I can also get many claps from this house, by announcing many new projects but that would be rendering injustice to the struggling organization," Mr Gowda said, adding that of every rupee earned, the Railways spends 94 paise, leaving only six paise. "This surplus, apart from being meager, is continuously on decline due to non-revision of fare." (Hungry Kya? Better Food on Trains, Promises Rail Minister)
Only government funding, the minister said, was insufficient and so, he was seeking the union cabinet's approval for allowing foreign direct investment or FDI in the industry.
He also sought greater private participation and exhorted corporates to adopt stations. The bulk of future projects would be public-private partnership or PPP funded, he said, emphasizing on the need to prioritise and complete projects, adopt safety standards of international level and encourage development.
He said he aimed to make the Railways the biggest freight carrier in the world, but said at present its share of total freight in the country had declined to only 31 per cent.
Mr Gowda, famous for his smiling countenance, did not smile much today as he accused previous governments of running the Railways for political benefit; more than half the projects worth lakhs of crores announced in the last 30 years had not been completed, he said, as new announcements were made every year.