To speed up investments in the infrastructure sector, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday set deadlines for awarding projects for railway, road and port prejects. Singh said that the government would remove financing irritants for road companies, award over 8,000 km of road projects by March-2013, fast-track the elevated rail corridor project in Mumbai, and bring a Cabinet note on two new major ports within a week.
He has set a deadline of December 31 for an inter-ministerial group to finalise its proposal for a Rail Tariff Authority (RTA) , which will suggest rationalisation of passenger fares. There has not been any hike in passenger fares for the last nine years, which has strained railways finances. The absence of passenger fare hikes means the government has lost about R24,000 crore over the same period. The Union Cabinet will consider the proposed RTA latest by January 15, 2013, as per a statement issue by the Prime Ministers Office (PMO).
The Prime Minister said that a state support agreement for the R21,000- crore elevated rail corridor will be signed with Maharashtra in the next 15 days. This project is currently under the pre-bid stage and the government plans to invite bids before the 2013 Rail Budget. The deadlines have been decided after a series of review meetings Singh recently held with the ministries concerned.
To remove financing constraints for road projects, the highway ministry would seek suggestions of the Prime Ministers Economic Advisory Council. The council would examine the suggestion of banks to keep loans to road companies in the secured category, even if revenues from toll collections dip below estimates during the concession period.
The government would aim to cross the original targets for 2012-13 and award at least 8,000 km of roads by March, 2013. Road projects of at least 3,000-km length will be awarded under the new operate, maintain and toll (OMT) method by March, 2013, as per the statement.
The shipping ministry would bring to the Union Cabine a proposal for setting up two new major ports in Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal within a week. These projects will be awarded by March 2013. The two major ports are estimated to cost about R20,500 crore, and will have 116 million tonne (MT) of annual cargo-handling capacity. These will be set up as special purpose vehicles, which will bid out projects to private players.
Singh has also asked the railways to expedite finalisation of bidding