Agencies, New Delhi
India left train fares and freight rates unchanged in its interim railway budget, as politicians try to please voters and manufacturing companies ahead of national elections due in the next three months.
India’s state-owned railways are the world’s fourth-largest, with 65,000 km (40,000 miles) of track, after the United States, China and Russia, but have suffered from years of low investment and a lack of policy reforms.
India last raised passenger fares in January 2013, after a nine-year gap, snapping a populist trend in order to mend the finances of a creaky rail network that drags on the economy.
Railways Minister Mallikarjun Kharge said the department would rely on budgetary support as well as market borrowing to invest in new tracks.
“Inadequacy of financial resources is a key constraint to railways,” he said, while presenting an interim budget for the first four months of the fiscal year to March 2015. Indian Railways plans to invest 643.05 billion rupees on new lines and other infrastructure in the next fiscal year, up 8.3 percent from a revised figure of 593.6 billion in the current fiscal year, he said. It expects support to the tune of 302.23 billion rupees from the federal government’s budget, and plans to borrow about 198 billion from the market.
Annual gross tariff receipts are projected to grow 14.4 percent to reach 1.6 trillion rupees in the next fiscal year, while working expenses are expected to rise 14 percent to 1.1 trillion.