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India to spend $59b to upgrade infrastructure

India to spend $59b to upgrade infrastructure

MUMBAI: India announced record spending of Rs3.96 trillion ($59 billion) to build and modernise its railways, airports and roads as Prime Minister Narendra Modi aims to upgrade the strained infrastructure in Asia’s third-largest economy.

The government will build airports now a near monopoly of the state in smaller cities in partnership with private companies, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said while presenting the government’s budget proposals for the fiscal year starting in April. More suburban railways will come up across the country and Indian Railways, a state monopoly, will form ventures with logistics companies to provide greater connectivity to ports, he said.

Rail equipment manufacturers such as Bombardier and General Electric are among companies already investing in setting up factories in India as the world’s second-most populous nation seeks to accelerate economic growth by improving infrastructure. Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari has said that the government has a target of building 42 kilometres of roads a day in a nation that stands below Namibia and Azerbaijan in the World Economic Forum’s infrastructure ranking.

Wednesday’s proposals “shall increase the demand for procurement of rolling stock, rail equipment and signaling systems,” Harsh Dhingra, chief country representative for Bombardier Transportation, said in an e-mailed statement after Jaitley announcements. Bombardier opened its first rail-coach plant in India in 2008.

India will announce a metro rail policy, which will ensure implementation and funding, and open up job opportunities, Jaitley said. A new Metro Rail Act will facilitate greater private participation and investment in construction and operation, he said.

Indian Railways, the world’s fourth-largest, carries 23 million people daily on congested and aging tracks with roots dating back to British colonial rule. Sometimes, trains slow to a walking pace. The railways employ 1.3 million people directly.

In 2015, GE and Alstom won contracts worth $5.6 billion to build locomotives for the railways. GE won a $2.6 billion deal for diesel engines and will invest $200 million to build a factory under a joint venture with Indian Railways, the company said then. Alstom will make electric engines in a contract worth about $3 billion.