India announces five-year plan to boost rail capacity by half

India has announced that it has budgeted $137bn to spend on its ageing rail system over the next five years. 

Suresh Prabhu, the minister for railways, said much of the funding would go towards modernising the existing track and improving the quality of trains. 

The budget aims to improve customer experience, ensure safer travel and make the railways self-sustainable. 

The maximum capacity of the network will increase from 21-30 million passengers a day. The government also aims to increase track length by 20%, from 14,000km to 138,000km, and its annual freight-carrying capacity from 1 billion to 1.5 billion tonnes. 

Prabhu said finance for the renewal would be raised through foreign investment, infrastructure and pension funds and the "monetisation" of Indian railways – although not privatisation. 

He added that the budget had "set the direction of a long and difficult road of reform". 

Indian Railways is the largest single employer in the country, providing 1.3 million jobs. 

India has recently shown signs of opening up to foreign investment as a US consortium are on course build three smart cities in the country.

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