The Telegraph
Tuesday , June 10 , 2014
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Infrastructure tops priority list

New Delhi, June 9: The Modi-government will focus on setting up small airports, a Diamond Quadrilateral of high-speed trains and a “Sagar Mala” project to connect ports to the hinterland.

“Lack of robust infrastructure is one of India’s major impediments. The government will chalk out an ambitious infrastructure development programme to be implemented in the next 10 years,” President Pranab Mukherjee said in his address to the joint sitting of Parliament today.

A “fast-track, investment friendly and predictable” public-private partnership mechanism will be in place to implement ambitious projects.

The President said low-cost airports would be developed to promote connectivity to the smaller towns.

The low-cost, small and no-frills airports will be built in tier II and tier III cities, which are expected to spur the development of the aviation sector. At present, non-metro airports account for only about 30 per cent of the total traffic, which is expected to rise to 45 per cent in the next few years.

Modernisation and the revamping of railways will get top priority.

“My government will launch a Diamond Quadrilateral project of high-speed trains. The country will have a network of freight corridors with specialised agri-rail networks for perishable agricultural products. Investment in railways will be increased using innovative financing methods,” he said.

The diamond quadrilateral primarily aims to connect Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Calcutta with trains running at over 200km per hour, much like the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-government’s “Golden Quadrilateral” highway project.

The expansion of railways in the hilly states and the Northeast region and the modernisation of safety systems will be the prime focus areas, Mukherjee said, adding research and development and high-level local manufacturing for railway systems will be encouraged.

The railways, which is also executing the dedicated freight corridor project for exclusive goods movement between Delhi and Mumbai and Delhi and Calcutta, expect it to be operational partly by 2017.

A fast, time-bound and well monitored programme to build highways will be initiated to overcome the stagnancy of the past few years.

“The government will evolve a model of port-led development. Our long coastline will become the gateway for India’s prosperity,” the President said.

“Stringing together the Sagar Mala project, we will connect the ports with the hinterland through road and rail. Inland and coastal waterways will be developed as major transport routes,” he said.

The Sagar Mala project looks at modernising existing ports, developing new ones and interconnecting them. It is a long-term development plan to enhance the maritime sector by creating a network of waterways to avoid inefficient and expensive modes of inland transportation.

The Sagar Mala project was first mooted in August 2003 by former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.