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Friday , March 5 , 2010
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Mamata gets invitation to visit London
If Mamata goes to the UK, the British would like to show her St Pancras International, a central London railway terminus

New Delhi/London, March 4: British high commissioner Richard Stagg today invited railway minister Mamata Banerjee to visit the UK in early April to study possibilities of collaboration with industry there on infrastructure.

Sources close to Mamata have said she is “unlikely” to visit the UK in April because elections to the House of Commons are due in May. The minister may prefer to wait till the elections are over.

Stagg’s invitation was extended more on behalf of the UK railway industry than for formal government-to-government talks.

Stagg’s visit to Rail Bhawan today follows intense attempts by British manufacturers of railway-related products and technology to partner Indian Railways, the sources said.

The Railway Industry Association (RIA), a trade forum of over 140 private firms in the UK that supply equipment and services across the world, is keen on a tie-up with the Indian utility.

Mamata herself has in recent weeks indicated that the railways are keen to partner private firms.

If Mamata Banerjee accepts the invitation, she will probably be shown the architecturally exciting St Pancras International station, the complex control room at Euston, the Bombardier rolling stock factory in Derby, the rail accident investigation branch in Woking and perhaps offered a ride on Eurostar to Paris, officials in London indicated today.

If Mamata makes the trip, it will be her first overseas trip as railway minister.

Mamata’s officials had put out feelers to Cambridge University. The university had said it would be happy to organise a round-table conference for her.

In the UK, she will almost certainly meet her opposite number, Lord Adonis, a familiar figure at Indian business seminars in London.

One area where the British could help is in signalling and safety. Mamata could hold a useful conversation with Carolyn Griffiths, chief inspector of rail accidents.

If she does go to Britain, Mamata will have to be slightly more active than her predecessor Lalu Prasad who relaxed in his hotel room in London after instructing his accompanying delegation to do all the talking and sightseeing on his behalf.

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