Foreign equity can flag next leg of Indian rail’s journey

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A momentous decision by Prime Minister Narendra Modi government late Wednesday, allowing 100-percent foreign equity in big-ticket projects of Indian Railways for the first time, can prove a game-changer for the 160-year-old network in India that was seen floundering in recent decades due to a mix of issues, notably political populism, lack of clarity in executing its social obligations and paucity of funds. India boasts one of the oldest railroad networks in the world and also among the largest, ferrying some 23 million people, or a population the size of Australia, on its coaches each day. The rail infrastructure, too, suffered as new trains kept being added without much thought on expansion and modernisation. This ratio for Indian Railways declined to an unsustainable level of over 95 percent in 2010-11 from around 80 percent in the 1950s.


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