Suresh Prabhu, presenting his first Railway Budget, refrained from populist measures like announcing new trains. Although there is no increase in passenger fare, freight rates for coal, cement, iron, and steel have been increased
While keeping subsidised passenger fares unchanged, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu on Thursday increased freight rates for transportation of coal, cement, iron, and steel in his Rail Budget for 2015-16. Interestingly, unlike his predecessors, Prabhu refrained from announcing any new train, but assured members of Parliament (MPs) that he would review their requests before announcing any new train.
The Railway Minister, presenting a full Rail Budget for the Narendra Modi government also announced several facilities for passengers like mobile app for complaints, water vending machines at major stations, CCTVs cameras in some long-distance trains and EMUs. For safety of women, cameras will be provided in selected mainline coaches and ladies compartments in suburban local trains, without affecting their privacy, Prabhu said.
Except for high-speed diesel, freight rates were hiked for LPG, kerosene, iron and steel, cement, urea and coal. Freight rate for high-speed diesel was lowered by 1% while for LPG, kerosene, iron and steel it was hiked by 0.8%, for cement 2.7%, for urea 10% and for 6.3%.
The Railway Minister’s action plan hinges on four goals, five drivers, and nine thrust areas that he spelled out in his Budget speech. Railways seeks resource mobilization for higher investment, decongestion of heavy haul routes and speeding of trains and project delivery, better passenger amenities and safety, and to make railways a preferred mode of transport for masses, Prabhu said.
The four goals envisaged in the five-year period by Prabhu includes, improving customers experience, making rail safer for travel, modernising rail infrastructure, and making railway financially sustainable. He also said that the railways would reach out for multilateral development institutions, long-term pension funds for raising resources in the next five years.
Prabhu also announced plans to set up a Transport Logistics Corp of India that would cater to the logistics need of Railways.
To achieve the four goals, the Railway Ministry will work on five key drivers of action – adopting a medium term perspective planning including a new White Paper; building partnerships with public sector units (PSUs) and funding agencies; Leveraging funding opportunities including Pension Funds; revamping management practices and systems; and setting standards for governance and transparency, Prabhu added. Railways will also leverage additional resources and envisage an investment of Rs8.5 lakh crore in next five years, the Minister added.
In order to make travel on Indian Railways a happy experience, the Budget presented by Prabhu has given thrust on cleanliness, while proposing a new department for keeping stations and trains clean under Swachh Rail-Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. New toilets will be built at 650 additional stations; online booking of disposable bed rolls will be made available. 24X7 helpline number 138 and a toll-free number 182 for security related complaints have also been proposed by the Railway Minister in the budget.
Prabhu said, Travelling Ticket Examiners (TTEs) will be provided hand-held terminals for verification of passengers. A centrally managed Railway Display Network in over 2,000 stations in next two years will be included besides an “SMS Alert” service to inform passengers in advance of the updated arrival/departure time of trains at starting or destination stations, he added.
The Railway Minister said, under the Adarsh Station Scheme, 200 more stations would be included while B-category stations would provide wi-fi internet facility. Prabhu said, the Railways has approached the National Institute of Design to design user friendly ladders for climbing upper births. He also said there would be more lower berths for senior citizens. Besides, TTEs will now be instructed to help senior citizens, pregnant women and differently-abled persons in obtaining lower berths and middle bay of coaches would be reserved for women and senior citizen, the Minister added.
The Railway Minister said, 77 projects covering 9,400 kms of doubling, tripling and quadrupling works along with electrification, covering almost all States, at a cost of Rs96,182 crore will be taken up. To accelerate the pace of Railway electrification, 6,608 route kilometres will be sanctioned for 2015-16, an increase of 1,330% over the previous year.
Prabhu said, the speed of nine railway corridors will be increased from existing 110 and 130 kmph to 160 and 200 kmph, respectively so that inter-metro journeys like Delhi-Kolkata and Delhi-Mumbai can be completed overnight. Average speed of freight trains in empty and loaded conditions, will be enhanced to 100 kmph for empty freight trains and 75 kmph for loaded trains.
Declaring safety of paramount importance for Railways, Prabhu out lined an action for accident prone areas. The Budget also proposes 970 ROB/RUBs and other safety-related works to eliminate 3,438 level crossings at a total expense of Rs6,581 crore, 26 times higher than the previous year.
Prabhu, in his Budget for 2015-16 also proposed of constituting an innovation council called “Kayakalp” for business re-engineering and introducing a spirit of innovation in Railways besides setting up of Technology portal to invite innovative technological solutions.
The Railway Minister also announced revamping of its public-private-partnership (PPP) cell to make it result oriented.
According to Budget Estimates, Plan Outlay for 2015-16 has been proposed to Rs1,00,011 crore, an increase of 52% over RE 2014-15 plan size. Out of this 41.6% resources will come from Central Government support while 17.8 % will be generated from internal resources, Prabhu added.