INDIA: Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh officiated at a ceremony in Jhabua on February 8 to lay the foundation stone for two new railways serving the western part of Madhya Pradesh.

Joined by the state's Governor Balram Jakhar and Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, the Prime Minister inaugurated work on a 210 km line from Indore to Dahod and a second of 157 km linking Chhota Udaipur with Dhar. 'Construction of the two lines will attract heavy industry and generate thousands of jobs', he suggested. Costing Rs12·9bn, the new lines are due to be completed by 2011.

Meanwhile, land acquisition has started along the route of the planned 104 km Bidar - Gulbarga line in Karnataka, for which the foundation stone was laid in July 2000. Work on the Rs3·8bn project had been delayed by a lack of funding, but the state government's Infrastructure Development Department has advanced Rs200m for preliminary work pending an agreement with Indian Railways to split the cost of the scheme equally.

IR has applied for a loan of US$500m from the Asian Development Bank to fund a major capacity enhancement programme starting in 2009. This includes double-tracking of the 225 km Daund - Gulbarga section of the Mumbai - Chennai trunk line through Karnataka and the 182 km Sambalpur - Titagarh and 203 km Raipur -Titagahr lines in Orissa, plus upgrading of the 214 km Hospet - Tenai Ghat route in Karnataka.

Another key element of this upgrading package is electrification of the 641 km Pune - Daund Guntakal section at 25 kV 50 Hz, completing the wiring of the Mumbai - Chennai route. IR is pressing ahead with its trunk line electrification programme, and on February 8 the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs gave the go-ahead for wiring the 809 km Baruani - Katihar - Guwahati line at an anticipated cost of Rs5bn, taking 25 kV into Assam for the first time by 2012.