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.
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.
EXPANSIONOF RAILWAY NETWORK
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.
IMPROVING CORPORATE GOVERNANCE
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.
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.
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.