Prime Minister directs fast-tracking transport projects

New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has asked for fast-tracking major railway, road and port projects whose slow development could become the biggest “game stopper” for India’s economic growth.

The prime minister held a series of meetings recently and reviewed the performance of the transport sector, after which decisions were taken to go full throttle with the Mumbai elevated rail corridor, the dedicated freight corridor, and two new ports in Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal.

The poor and rickety state of infrastructure in India has been a drag on the country’s economic growth. According to the government’s own assessment, India needs infrastructure spending of close to $1.5 trillion to grow at 10 percent every year.

Economists refer to the slow pace of reforms in the urban transportation sector in India, as compared to sectors like telecom and services. Also, delayed approvals, cost-overruns and poor planning and execution have plagued projects for years. According to one estimate, up to 70 percent of projects in India seek extensions.

An official release said that as per the prime minister’s direction, the State Support Agreement for the Mumbai elevated rail corridor should be signed with the Maharashtra government in the next 15 days and bids for the project will be invited before the Rail Budget in 2013.

On setting up a Rail Tariff Authority, a cabinet note will be brought latest by Jan 15, 2013.

Also, the bids for the Madhepura/Marhowra PPP Loco Factories will be called by Dec 31 and the project will be awarded before the presentation of the Railway Budget. The inter-ministerial group (IMG) set up under CCEA’s (Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs) approval will consider and approve any necessary changes to documents. Timelines for the Marhowra Project will be announced by Dec 15.

During the meeting it was felt that the dedicated freight corridor is moving ahead much better than other large projects because of the dedicated project structure. The ministry will submit a revised estimate with details on source of funding for it by Dec 15, 2012.

The ministry will also provide milestones with timelines for Sonnagar-Dankuni Project and adhere to them.

On road transport and highways, the release said the ministry will try its best to award road projects as per the original targets for 2012-13 fiscal and will certainly cross 8,000 km of awards this year by March 2013.

Road projects of at least 3,000-km length will be awarded under OMT (own, manage and transfer) by March 2013.

The secretary, road transport and highways, will send a note to chairman, Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council (PMEAC) on the issue of the Reserve Bank of India’s treatment of loans to the roads sector as unsecured loans.

As regards berths and additional capacity at ports, the shipping ministry will try to achieve the FY 12-13 target of awarding port projects with a capacity of 245 MMTPA by March 2013.

Issues relating to security clearances and land transfer, if any, will be taken up with the cabinet secretary and ministries concerned and resolved.

A Cabinet note on two projects for new Major Ports in Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal will be brought within a week. The projects will be awarded by March 2013, the release added.

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