Consumer Issues
Rail Budget: No hike in passenger fares, freight rates
Sparing fare and freight rate hikes, Suresh Prabhu’s Rail Budget focusses on passenger amenities, spanning ease of booking and cancellations of tickets to actual travel comfort and cleanliness
Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu in his second Railway Budget has not hiked passenger fares and left freight rates unchanged while focussing on passenger amenities, spanning ease of booking tickets and cancellations to actual travel comfort and cleanliness.  
There is no hike in passenger fare in this year’s Railway Budget.  Freight rates left unchanged: Gross Traffic Receipts are kept at Rs1.85 lakh crore. Passenger earnings growth has been pegged at 12.4% and earnings target budgeted at Rs51,012 crore. The freight traffic is pegged at incremental traffic of 50 million tonnes, anticipating a healthier growth in the core sector of economy. Goods earnings is accordingly proposed at Rs1.18 lakh crore.
Thrust on non-fare revenue: Indian Railways will increase the revenue through non-fare sources, like commercial exploitation of vacant land and space rights over station buildings; using vast physical infrastructure for commercial exploitation through advertisement; liberalising its current parcel policies to increase the non-fare revenue and focussing on increasing productivity and better manufacturing practices, among others, Prabhu said.
The Railway Budget has proposed an operating ratio of 92%, against the current 90%.



Humsafar, Tejas and Uday Train Services to be introduced for the Reserved Passenger 
Humsafar would be fully air-conditioned third AC service with an optional service for meals.  Tejas, on the other hand will showcase the future of train travel in India. Operating at speeds of 130kmph and above, it will offer onboard services such as entertainment, local cuisine, Wi-Fi, etc. through one service provider for ensuring accountability and improved customer satisfaction. He said that overnight double-decker, Utkrisht Double-Decker Air-conditioned Yatri (UDAY) Express will be introduced on the busiest routes, which has the potential to increase carrying capacity by almost 40%.
Antyodaya Express and Deen Dayalu Coaches to be Introduced for the Unreserved Passenger
Antyodaya Express, a long-distance, fully unreserved, superfast train service, for the common man to be operated on dense routes;   2-4 Deen Dayalu coaches will be added in some long distance trains for unreserved travel to enhance the carrying capacity.
All operational halts will be converted into commercial halts, for the convenience of passengers. 
Sarathi Seva, which was introduced in Konkan Railway to help the old and disabled passengers requiring assistance at stations. This service will be extended to more stations. Lower berth quota for senior citizens raised by 50%. 
E-Catering Services to be Extended to 408 A1 and A Class Stations 
Local Cuisine of Choice will be made available to Passengers.  Ten more IRCTC operated, mechanized, sophisticated base kitchens will be added to ensure fresh and hygienic supply of food on trains. 
IRCTC has begun the process of empanelling Self-Help Groups for providing catering/ cooking services. Indian Railways is partnering with NABARD to provide support and access to our IRCTC website to ensure extensive e- marketing for products produced by the Self-help groups which would lead to increase in rural incomes. 
Optional travel insurance for rail journeys at the time of booking and clean my coach through SMS will also be introduced in due course. 
FM Radio Stations will be invited to provide train borne entertainment, Rail Bandhu Mazagine will be provided in all reserved coaches in all regional languages. 
Prabhu said, Indian Railways has installed 2,500 water vending machines at stations, provided mobile charging points in general class coaches, placed dustbins in all new non-AC coaches, enabled online booking of retiring rooms, set up mechanized laundries to provide clean and hygienic bed rolls. Disposable bed rolls are now available at select stations to all classes of passengers
Stations to be made disabled friendly
In pursuance of the objectives of Accessible India Campaign, Indian Railway will ensure that all stations under redevelopment are made disabled friendly. At least one disabled friendly toilet in all platform in A1 class stations will be built in the next financial year. One-time registration for the persons with disabilities for availing concessions while booking tickets online has been introduced.  Online booking of wheelchairs and Braille enabled new coaches has also been introduced for the persons with disabilities.
Bio toilets
Indian Railways has proposed to undertake awareness campaigns to improve cleanliness at select stations, station approach roads and adjacent colonies. Portable bio toilets will be provided at all platforms of select stations to cater to the demand of senior citizens, persons with disabilities and women passengers. The Railway Minister  has set a target of 30000 bio-toilets in the next financial year. 
Beautification of stations
It is proposed  to take up on priority the provision of passenger amenities and beautification on stations at pilgrimage centres including Ajmer, Amritsar, Bihar Sharif, Chengannur, Dwarka, Gaya, Haridwar, Mathura, Nagapattinam, Nanded, Nasik, Pali, Parasnath, Puri, Tirupati, Vailankanni, Varanasi and Vasco. Aastha circuit trains will be introduced to connect important pilgrim centres.
Two New Corridors Planned for Mumbai Suburban Train 
The Railways has planned Churchgate to Virar and Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus Mumbai (CSTM) to Panvel  new corridors for Mumbai. The two corridors will be elevated and will greatly help in reducing the congestion of the Suburban trains. The CSTM–Panvel corridor will be integrated with metro lines for connecting Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport and proposed Navi Mumbai International Airport.  All low level platforms in Mumbai suburban stations will be augmented to ensure passenger safety.


In pursuance of ‘Operation Five Minutes’ Indian Railways has introduced 1,780 Automatic Ticket Vending Machines, Mobile apps and GoIndia smartcard. GoIndia smartcard will enable cashless purchase of UTS and PRS tickets. Capacity of e-ticketing system has been enhanced from 2,000 tickets per minute to 7,200 tickets per minute and will support 1.20 lakh concurrent users as against only 40,000 earlier. 
A new process for Cancellation of PRS tickets through the 139 Helpline post verification using ‘One Time Password’ sent on registered phone number will be introduced.   
Bar coded tickets, scanners and access control to be introduced on a pilot basis on major stations to tackle the menace of ticketless travel and ensure hassle free travel for passengers. 
E-Booking of Tickets on the Concessional Passes for Journalists to be Introduced. E-ticketing facility to foreign debit/ credit cards for foreign tourists and NRIs also to be introduced in the next three months . 
The ‘Vikalp’ (Alternative Train Accommodation System) scheme introduced in October 2015 will be expanded to provide choice of accommodation in specific trains to wait-listed passengers. 


‘AYUSH’ Systems in five Railway Hospitals Introduced  
Indian Railways will also provide toilets and air-conditioning in cabs for our loco pilots. 
Railway Gang men will be provided with devices called ‘Rakshak’, which would be wireless enabled and will intimate them about approaching trains. 


Dedicated Freight Corridor project 
The Dedicated Freight Corridor project, the largest infrastructure project in the country, is gaining momentum.   Freight Corridors to be taken up are: North-South Corridor connecting Delhi to Chennai, East-West Corridor connecting Kharagpur to Mumbai and East Coast Corridor connecting Kharagpur to Vijayawada.  
Railways for Port Connectivity to Boost Country’s Imports and Exports  
Rail connectivity projects to ports of Jaigarh, Dighi, Rewas in Maharashtra are under implementation.
Better Rail connectivity to North East & Jammu and Kashmir 
Indian Railways have opened the long-awaited Broad Gauge Lumding-Silchar section in Assam, thus connecting Barak Valley with rest of the country. States of Mizoram and Manipur are also set to come on the Broad Gauge map of the country soon with commissioning of the Kathakal-Bhairabi and Arunachal-Jiribam Gauge Conversion projects.
Despite difficult terrain and uncertain geology, work on Katra-Banihal section of Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla Rail Link Project is progressing satisfactorily and 35 Kilometers of tunneling, out of total of 95 Kilometers has been completed successfully.
Increased Outlay for Electrification of Railways 
This year the Indian Railways intend to commission 1,600kms, which is the highest ever. In the next financial year, the Railways have increased the outlay for railway electrification by almost 50% and propose to electrify 2,000 kms. 


National Rail Plan
National Rail Plan  announced to provide long-term perspective to planning for augmenting the railway network. NRP-2030 will endeavour to harmonise and integrate the rail network with other modes of transport and create synergy for achieving seamless multi-modal transportation network across the country. It will be developed in consultation with all the stakeholders including State Governments, public representatives and other relevant Central Ministries.
Indian Railways is also planning to set up a Railway Planning & Investment Organisation for drafting our medium (5 years) and long (10 years) term corporate plans and based thereupon, identify projects which fulfill the corporate goal. 
Rail Development Authority 
Indian Railways will ensure the independence of Rail Development Authority which was proposed last year to enable fair pricing of services, promote competition, protect customer interests and determine efficiency standards.
Reorganization of Railway Board 
Railway Minister has  proposed to reorganize the Railway Board along business lines and suitably empower Chairman, Railway Board to lead the organization effectively.   As a first step, cross functional directorates will be set up within the Railway Board to focus on areas like non-fare revenues, speed enhancement, motive power and information technology. Indian Railway will explore the possibility of unifying cadres for fresh recruitment of officers. Indian Railway will also strengthen the PPP cell to improve ease of doing business with Indian Railway. 
Ensuring transparency
Indian Railway’s mission is to ensure 100% transparency in all its operations. He said, Indian Railways has initiated the process of conducting recruitments online in 2015-16 and the process is now being replicated for all positions. Social media is also being used as a tool to bring in transparency in its day to day working. All procurement including procurement of works has moved to the e-platform. 
EPC mode for Railway Projects
Engineering Procurement and Construction (EPC) mode will be implemented for allotting works to ensure participation of large professional players and minimizing cost and time overruns
Boost to Railway R&D
A Special Railway Establishment for Strategic Technology & Holistic Advancement, ‘SRESTHA.’ RDSO will now focus only on day to day issues while SRESTHA would drive long term research. SRESTHA would be headed by an eminent scientist reporting directly to Chairman, Railway Board and would be staffed with scientists and a limited number of Railway experts. 
Two chairs – one C T Venugopal chair on Strategic Finance, research and policy development and another Kalpana Chawla chair on geo-spatial technology for Indian Railways for promoting research in key policy areas. 
National Academy of Indian Railways at Vadodara has been identified as the first institution which would be upgraded to a full-fledged Rail University.
Energy audit
In the context of India’s commitment to reduce its carbon foot print, Indian Railways have undertaken energy audits which have revealed the possibility of reducing energy consumption in non-traction area by 10% to 15%. To achieve this, Indian Railways have decided that all new light provisions will be LED luminaire only and all Railway stations will be covered with LED luminaire in next 2 to 3 years.


Mauritius PM undergoes eye surgery in Hyderabad
Hyderabad : Prime Minister of Mauritius Anerood Jugnauth has undergone cataract and glaucoma surgery at a private hospital in Hyderabad.
The 84-year-old has completely recovered and will be flying back early next week, said doctors at Maxivision Super Speciality Eye Hospital.
Kasu Prasad Reddy, chief surgeon and co-chairman at Maxivision, told reporters on Thursday that it was a complicated cataract surgery as Jugnauth also had glaucoma.
"Cataract operation becomes difficult with glaucoma and the chances of complications will be more but the operation was smooth," he said.
While right eye was operated upon on Sunday last, the surgery on second eye was performed on Thursday.
Each surgery lasted for half an hour and did not require any hospitalisation.
The prime minister, who is staying at a star hotel, will undergo a checkup on Sunday before returning home.
Jugnauth chose Hyderabad as the city has best medical facilities and among eye hospitals, he preferred Maxivision for its advanced technologies, said Kasu Reddy, who performed the second surgery.
The PM was scheduled to address the media but backed out in the last minute on the ground that it's a private visit.
"One of the main reasons for which I have decided to receive treatment in India was the good reputation of this country in terms of specialists, medical products and surgical procedures," a statement by the hospital quoted him as saying.
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.


Rail Budget Highlights
Suresh Prabhu in the Rail Budget proposed two elevated tracks from Churchgate and CST on Mumbai's suburban railway system
Here are the highlights of the Railway Budget for FY2016-17 presented by Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu on Thursday
* Making all-out efforts to translate dream of Prime Minister Narendra Modi into reality
* Aiming to achieve operation ratio of 92 percent
* Saving of Rs.8,720 crore from last year's estimates
* Envisaging capital expenditure of Rs.1.21 lakh crore
* 2,800 km of broad gauge track conversion envisaged (12:24) 
* Seven km of broad gauge lines to be commisssioned every day during 2016-17
* Hope to commission 19 km of new broad gauge track every day by 2018-19
* Rs.8.8 lakh crore to be spent on infrastructure in five years
* Rs.40,000 crore expected from the government as budgetary support
* Budget that reflects the expectations of the entire nation
* To increase lower berth quota for senior citizens by 50 percent
* Dedicated freight corridors envisaged for North-South, East-West and East Coast alignments
* Social media being increasingly used to ensure transparency
* Online booking of retiring rooms made possible
* 17,000 additional bio-toilets to be provided by the end of current fiscal
* Finalised bids for two new loco factories under Make in India initiative
* WiFi facilities at 100 more stations this year and 400 stations next year
* LIC to fund Rs.1.5 lakh crore over five years on favourable terms (13:00) 
* Two elevated tracks envisaged from Churchgate and CST on Mumbai's suburban railway system
* Specialised teams envisaged in specific areas to improve efficiency
* All-India 24X7 helpline for women
* Fully unreserved trains to be operated on high-density corridors
* Local art to be highlighted at railway stations
* Academic facility at Vadodara being upgraded to university level
* Railways to generate 9 crore mandays of employment in 2017-18 and 14 crore mandays in 2018-19
* IRCTC to begin marriage catering service in phased manner
* New R&D organisation to be established
* Rs50 crore to be provided for start-ups by railway employees
* E-catering to be extended to all stations
* Local cusine of choice to be made available to rail passengers


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