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Move to fast-track key core projects

New Delhi, Dec. 6: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh wants the contract for Bengal’s Sagar port to be awarded by March-end. Cabinet clearance for Sagar is expected within a week.

The Prime Minister has also set a deadline for the creation of the Rail Tariff Authority.

“A Cabinet note on two projects for new major ports in Andhra Pradesh and Bengal will be brought within a week. The projects will be awarded by March,” a PMO statement said after a review meeting of the performance of the transport sector.

The ports are part of the government’s efforts to give a big push to infrastructure, which needs an investment of $1 trillion over the next five years for the economy to grow at 9 per cent per annum.

The Sagar and Andhra Pradesh ports will cost about Rs 20,500 crore and have 116 million tonnes of annual cargo-handling capacity.

As part of its maritime agenda 2010-20, the shipping ministry plans to increase the total port capacity to 3,300 million tonnes from 1,200 million tonnes, requiring an estimated investment of Rs 2.9 lakh crore.

India’s 13 major ports handle 63 per cent of the seaborne traffic, while the non-major ports handle the remaining 37 per cent. Twelve of the major ports function as trusts under the Major Port Trusts Act, 1963, while the Ennore port was set up as a company under the Companies Act, 1956.

The two new ports are expected to be set up as special purpose vehicles; the state governments will hold at least 26 per cent equity, and the central government, 74 per cent.

Rail tariff

The Prime Minister has set a December 31 deadline for an inter-ministerial group (IMG) to finalise its proposal for setting up a Rail Tariff Authority that will suggest the rationalisation of passenger fares.

Singh said the IMG under the Railway Board chairman should “finalise and submit its recommendations on the Rail Tariff Authority by December 31, 2012”.

The formation of the Rail Tariff Authority (RTA), proposed in the Rail Budget 2012-13, has to be approved by the Cabinet. The Prime Minister has asked for a Cabinet note to be brought latest by January 15, 2013.

The tariff body is expected to look into operational expenses and suggest a hike in passenger fares.

Freight corridor

The Prime Minister has directed the railways to take up the elevated rail corridor and dedicated freight corridor projects on a priority basis.

He has asked the railways ministry to submit revised funding estimates for the dedicated freight corridor project by December 15.

The 3,300-km dedicated freight network comprises western (Dadri to Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust) and eastern (Ludhiana to Dankuni) corridors. A major part of the western corridor will be funded by Japan, while nearly two thirds of the eastern corridor will be built with World Bank assistance.

Roads

The review meeting also decided that road projects of at least 3,000km in length have to be awarded by March.

To solve funding problems, Singh has asked the road transport and highways ministry to send a note to the chairman of the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council. There has been a growing concern over banks’ reluctance to give loans to road projects.

 
 
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