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The Indian Railways is set to report a sharp increase in its network in the ongoing fiscal as it seeks to showcase its development and pro-people approach in the Railway Budget due to be presented later this month.

The Railways has added about 700 km of new lines, more than three times of what it achieved last year. "This will be a marked improvement over the 200 km of new lines added last year," a Railway Ministry official said. 

The figure, however, will fall short of the ambitious 1,019 km target the railway had set for itself for 2010-11. "We have to step up our effort to meet the target of 25,000 km of new lines by 2020," the official added. 

Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee had set the target in her Vision 2020 Document last year. 

The route network of Indian Railways has expanded slowly in the past, averaging an annual 180 km since 1947. The Railways had inherited 53,996 km of rail network, which was built during the British rule. But since independence, the Railways has managed to expand it by only 10,419 km. 

The Railways had asked the Planning Commission for an over 40% hike in gross budgetary support (GBS) to take forward its mission 2020 agenda. But the request got only a lukewarm response. An official said the Railways might secure a 15% hike over last year's GBS of 15,875 crore. 

The Railways' finances have been squeezed by a 90% increase in salaries dictated by the sixth Pay Commission, a rise in diesel prices and disruption in commodity freight movements by protesters who block tracks. 

To attract more resources, the railway minister is likely to set the pitch for public-private partnerships, or PPP, even though most of the schemes announced during this fiscal have not elicited much interest from corporates.

"We do not want people to feel that we are frivolous about PPP. We are very serious about PPP as a stream of investment," said the official, adding that the budget might make some announcement in this regard. 

A team of senior railway officers is working on the PPP policy, which is likely to be finalised before the Budget.