States told to levy cess on properties along new corridors
THE railways have asked states to levy cess on all new properties coming up along the proposed high-speed railway corridors in order to partfund these projects which are estimated to cost Rs 30,000 crore. States which had sent proposals for these projects include Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Bihar, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh. The proposed high-speed railway network will link, for instance, Mumbai with Ahmedabad and Delhi with Amritsar in just two hours. “New commercial and residential constructions along the west-west corridor — Ahmedabad, Anand, Vadodara, Surat and Mumbai — and the north-north corridor — Jaipur, Gurgaon, Delhi, Sonepat, Ludhiana, Jalandhar and Amritsar — may have to pay a cess to avail high-speed train facility. The third corridor under consideration is Chennai-Bangalore,” a senior Rail Bhawan official said. However, the cess would be levied on upcoming properties only. All the three high-speed rail corridors would be constructed on the public-private-partnership (PPP) model. “As operating margins may not be big enough to cover debt-servicing, there is a valid case for funding part of debt servicing from sources other than the fare-box revenues,” the official said. A feasibility study has been done by RITES on the Ahmedabad-Mumbai stretch. These rail systems have also generated significant interest among rail engineering companies in the world. Significantly, several leading companies with experience in building high speed rail systems have sent their top executives to India. Chairman of Taiwan High Speed Rail Corporation Nita Ing recently met top railway officials recently to discuss bullet trains for India. High-speed trains take six times less per seat energy consumption than aeroplanes, and emit 10 times less CO2. The idea of having such trains in India was mooted way back in 1969-70. Due to cost constraints the project had remain shelved for years till rail minister Lalu Prasad revived the project in the 2007 budget announcement.