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from Breakingviews:

China rail reform skirts big question: who pays

By John Foley

(The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own)

China’s massive rail expansion is good for the economy. Burying it under $420 billion of debt isn’t. The long awaited dismantling of China’s sprawling Ministry of Railways and creation of a new rail company, announced on March 10, is a good moment to change track.

A grand plan to double track length to 120,000 kilometres between 2010 and 2015 is likely to cost over $100 billion a year. It’s worth it. As well as comfort, prestige and low emissions, rail is the ticket to better urbanization. A recent World Bank report calculated that the benefits to a city of better connectivity from high-speed rail could be almost as large as those from saving passengers time and operating costs.

The funding, though, has been pure folly. Projects depend on borrowing from Chinese state banks and issuing bonds - which in turn are mostly bought by the banks. The resulting debt, on a notional 6 percent interest rate, would require $25 billion a year of interest payments. Passengers aren’t rich enough to cover that cost.

from Photographers' Blog:

Riding India’s railways

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Across India

By Navesh Chitrakar

My journey on the great railways of India began on October 23, 2012. The trip not only marked my first visit to India, it was also the first time that I had ever travelled on real trains because my home country, Nepal, does not have a proper rail network.

Everything about the trains was new to me, which made it really exciting. I started out from Hazrat Nizamuddin railway station in Delhi and headed towards Agra with the help of a railway atlas, a train map and a fixer. I had been provided with the fixer’s assistance for a couple of days thanks to my chief photographer Ahmad Masood, one of the generous people who gave me a lot of help to complete this story. It didn’t take me long to get used to train travel; I understand and speak Hindi, and most of the people on the trains were very friendly and helpful. Most of the time I was doing what I was there to do: observing and trying to capture the most significant and fascinating aspects of India’s railways.

from Full Focus:

Riding India’s railways

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Photographer Navesh Chitrakar spent three months travelling on India's railways, documenting the world's fourth largest rail system, ahead of the Indian Railway Budget announcement. Almost all rail operations in India are handled by state-owned organisation Indian Railways which operates 9,000 passenger trains and transports up to 20 million passengers every day. Read Navesh's personal account here.

from India Insight:

Why Delhi autowallahs take you for a ride

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Thomson Reuters)

Here's a phrase that you need to learn if you're new to New Delhi. Everyone knows it and anyone can teach you: "Meter kyon nahi chalta hai?" ("Why doesn’t the meter work?") This will become an elementary part of your conversation with autowallahs, the drivers of the green-and-yellow three-wheelers that ferry people around the region.

from Global Investing:

Power failures shine light on India’s woes

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Half of India's 1.2 billion people have been without power today,  bringing transport, factories and offices to a grinding halt for the second day in a row and sparking rage amongst the sweltering population. That's embarrassing enough for a country that prides itself as  a member of the BRIC quartet of big emerging powerhouses along with Brazil, Russia and China.  But the outages will also hit economic growth which is already at 10-year lows. And the power failures, highlighting India's woeful infrastructure, bode poorly for the government's plans to step up manufacturing and lure more foreign companies to the factory sector.

India urgently needs to increase production and exports of manufactured goods. After all, software or pharma exports do not create jobs for a huge and largely unskilled population. India should be making and selling toys, clothes, shoes –- the things that helped lift hundreds of millions of Chinese, Taiwanese and Koreans  out of poverty and fuelled the current account surpluses in these countries.  At present, manufacturing provides less than 16 percent of India's gross domestic product (30 percent in China, 25 percent in South Korea and Taiwan)  but the government wants to raise that to 26 percent by 2022.  Trade minister Anand Sharma, in London last week, for a pre-Olympics conference, was eloquent on the plan to boost manufacturing exports to plug the current account gap:

from MacroScope:

Rip-off Britain in effect

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While most of the developed world frets about deflation, in Britain, inflation just won’t quit. 

The Bank of England has been forecasting a sharp fall in consumer price inflation for about as long as Britons have hoped for a summer of uninterrupted sunshine. But at least Britons are still betting on a fair amount of rain. 

from DealZone:

DealZone Daily

Australia's competition watchdog blocked National Australia Bank's $13 billion agreed deal for wealth manager Axa Asia Pacific Holdings, opening the door for rival bidder AMP to make a comeback. Australia's competition regulator defied expectations it would give conditional approval for a deal, instead issuing a flat rejection on the grounds a tie-up would hurt competition for retail investors.

British train and bus operator Arriva said it is in advanced talks with Deutsche Bahn about the German state rail company's 775 pence a share bid, valuing the company at 2.7 billion euros including debt.

from DealZone:

DealZone Daily

Shares of China XD Electric Co, which raised $1.5 billion this month in a Shanghai IPO, unexpectedly fell in their trading debut on Thursday, serving a stark warning to China's securities regulator that it may have gone too far in trying to cool the overheating stock market.  Read the Reuters story here.

And in other news:

Keolis, the transport unit of France's state railway group SNCF, and British transport operator Arriva, are studying a possible equity link-up, French daily La Tribune reported.

from UK News:

Britain’s 10 worst stations (only 10?)

RAIL BRITAIN STRIKEYes, I remember Clapham Junction, the name, because one rainy morning this week the (very) slow train drew up there unwontedly -- and stayed for ages. Plenty of time to take in the dismal scene.

No blackbirds singing around there, just huge numbers of cross people huddling in door-aligned bunches on a forbidding station that seems in parts like a throwback to the days of steam. 

from UK News:

BAE, the SFO and time travel

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rtxp5uiProsecute over bribes allegedly paid in far-flung lands years before you banned such practices?

That’s the bluff from Britain’s Serious Fraud Office and its biggest defence firm, BAE Systems, is having none of it.

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