Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in her Budget speech on Saturday made several announcements for the rail and airways sector.

The Indian Railways will invite private entities to operate trains on the network with a proposal of such trains to begin operations in the next three to four years, Sitharaman said. Addressing the Parliament, the finance minister said that 100 more airports are to be developed by 2024 under the Ude Desh ka Aam Naagrik or UDAN scheme, adding that the air fleet is expected to increase from existing 600 to 1,200 during this period.

“Four station re-development projects and operation of 150 passenger trains would be done through PPP [public-private partnership] mode,” Sitharaman said. “The process of inviting private participation is under way.”

The finance minister said that a Kisan rail will be set up through a public-private partnership model so that perishable farm products may be swiftly transported across the country.

Sitharaman said that more trains like Tejas Express will connect “iconic tourist destinations” and a high-speed train between Mumbai and Ahmedabad will also be actively pursued.

To ensure safety of railway passengers, the railways is expected to complete phase one of identifying defects in wheels as well as bearing of coaches, wagons and locomotives by the end of this year, the finance minister said. The move by the Indian Railways to shift from manual inspection to machine-assisted automatic identification of defects will ensure efficient, safe and economical services.

The proposals in the railway sector are aimed at conveying that passengers can expect better services with cleanliness maintained in trains and at stations with an improved ticketing system. The finance minister also proposed that large solar power capacity will be set up along rail tracks, on land owned by the national transporter.

Sitharaman proposed to provide around Rs 1.7 lakh crore for transport infrastructure in the coming financial year.