Indian Railways needs immediate course correction, Union minister for railway DV Sadananda Gowda said on Tuesday, while delivering the rail budget speech to the Lok Sabha. Gowda introduced his budget by first talking about what had come before: revenue that had been frittered away, investments that were misdirected and an overall approach of mismanagement and apathy. Instead, he said he promised to add a blueprint that would be a clear break from the populist budgets of the past.

But as per his own acknowledgment – Gowda has only been in the ministry for a month now – there has been hardly enough time to concoct a plan to reshape the behemoth that is the Indian Railways. Gowda owned up to being overwhelmed by the requests and recommendations he had been given in the short time he had to prepare the budget.

“I also can get claps from this august House by announcing many new projects, but that would be rendering injustice to the struggling organisation,” Gowda said. “I would like to take claps throughout the year by setting things in order.”

So what was exactly does this course correction entail?

*The rail fare hike had already been announced and partially rolled back, allowing the railway ministry’s official press release to insist there had been “no increase in rail fare.”

*Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s much-touted bullet train was announced, but only nominally, with a budget of just Rs 100 crore for high-speed networks. The minister acknowledged himself that it would cost Rs 60,000 crore for just one actual bullet train line. It was also formally announced that the first dedicated bullet train project would ply the Mumbai-Ahmedabad route, though there was no mention that this had been initiated by the United Progressive Alliance government last year.

*Gowda also spoke about three ways beyond a rail fare hike by which the railways can mobilise resources. These include using the public-private partnership model, which has been problematic for metro projects in places like Delhi and Mumbai, and failed to inspire confidence in the prospect of private involvement in the railways. Gowda announced plans to use PPP for everything from foot over-bridges and lifts to boundary walls for stations, and even putting solar panels on top of stations.

Earlier this year, the Congress’ short-tenured railway minister Mallikarjun Kharge announced that there were PPP projects in the pipeline for a wide range of things, including the “modernisation of railway stations” – which would have covered most of what Gowda announced today.

*Foreign Direct Investment in the railways has been on the cards for years now — it was something many in the UPA were pushing for — and in this regard Gowda has announced as much as Kharge had done earlier this year: promised that a proposal in FDI will be taken to the Cabinet.

*Sam Pitroda is not considered someone who the Bharatiya Janata Party would look to for policy prescriptions. But much of Gowda’s plans of using information technology to modernise railway operations and using geographic information systems to map and monetise land assets, comes from the report of an expert group for modernisation of Indian railways, which was set up by the UPA and chaired by Pitroda.

Having said that, Gowda did touch upon one crucial point that could demonstrate how the BJP approach to the railways is different from previous ones: implementation. Gowda’s rail budget might have its roots in recommendations and plans that date back to the UPA, but he acknowledged that as many as 676 projects were sanctioned over the last 30 years, of which 359 remain to be completed.

“In the last 10 years, 99 New Line projects worth Rs 60,000 crore were sanctioned, out of which only one project is complete till date,” Gowda said. “In fact, there are 4 projects that are as old as 30 years, but are still not complete for one reason or another.”

There is one new announcement that is unlikely to have come from a UPA recommendation: a special train aimed at inculcating good moral values and propagating the teachings of Swami Vivekananda.