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India seeks NRI funds from UAE to fuel railway expansion

Image © http://www.indianmirror.com/indian-industries/images/railway-top-img.jpg

Indian Railways, which is on an ultra fast track of modernisation and expansion requiring tens of billions of dollars, is mulling the possibility of tapping the huge financial potential of the non-resident Indian community, especially in the Gulf, to raise part of the funding.

Indian Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu, who is on a UAE visit, said his ministry is examining various measures to bring overseas investments into Indian railways.

As the world's second largest rail network operated under a single management, Indian railways has 115,000 km of track length and runs 12,617 trains to carry over 23 million passengers daily.

"We are examining how best we can tap into the huge potential of the NRI community to raise funds through certain investment instruments," Prabhu said.

Asked if the instrument could be in the form of a railway infrastructure bond, the minister said the ministry is considering various options to attract investments from NRIs, whose annual remittance is around $70 billion.

Minister Prabhu, who has met Khaldoon Khalifa Al Mubarak, Managing Director and Group Chief Executive Officer of Mubadala, Abu Dhabi's sovereign wealth fund, said Indian railways has been in discussion with the World Bank and pension funds to meet the huge investment needs estimated at $140 billion over five years.

The chartered accountant and banker turned minister, said discussions have been initiated with the World Bank for setting up a Railway Infrastructure Development Fund of around $30 billion.

He believes Indian railway requires a private-public partnership policy framework along with detailed and clear roadmap for implementation of projects on PPP mode.

Speaking to Khaleej Times, Prabhu, who has been on a mission to reinvent the 161 year old railways, said he hoped that by 2030, railway services would be benchmarked globally when the safety systems and record of the Indian railways must be the best in the world.

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