There will be no fare hikes. Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu has made that clear early on in his maiden railway budget speech.
Prabhu instead called for a rebirth of Indian railways, ruling out privatization. Prabhu said that transforming Railways “will require us to partner with key stakeholders. We will work closely with the states“.
The minister said the Railways has set four goals – Customer experience to receive a huge boost, safer travel, modernize infrastructure and financially self-sustainable.
The government has been stressing on the need to make Indian Railways profitable. As the Railway Minister presented his first railway budget, and expectations had been high. A government that had promised the moon, or at least better days, and delivery on the railways front has seen little change, despite a lot of announcements, and significant fare hike.
He also said that investment in railways will create more jobs. He proposed an investment of Rs 8.5 lakh crores over five years in railways. Railways has allotcated 67% more funds for passenger amenities.
Hand-held terminals to Travelling Ticket Examiners (TTEs) for verification of passengers will now be provided for verification of passengers, possibility of extending facility of SMS on mobiles as a valid proof of travel for PRS tickets will be explored.
Prabhu also said that the Railways would introduce an all India 24X7 helpline 138 from 1/3/15; Toll free No.182 for security complaints.
Railways to raise reserved ticket booking window to 120 days vs 60 days now.
He praised the operations of faster trains such as Rajdhani and Shatabdi, and urged more such trains. 9 hi-speed corridors, high speed trains to be introduced, Prabhu said. He announced Delhi-Kolkata, Delhi-Mumbai overnight journey trains.
Railways to introduce WiFi in 400 stations.
The minister announced that the railways would aim for 20% increase in track lines to 138,000 kms.
E-catering will be introduced in 108 trains on an experimental basis. IR will work to integrate best food chains 17000 more toilets to be replaced by bio-toilets.
Railways aims to increase women passenger security via Nirbhaya Fund. Surveillance cameras on select mainline and ladies compartments will be installed. For Railway safety, ISRO to be involved; 3438 level crossings to be eliminated
Prabhu also announcecd the launch of Operation 5 minutes, by which a passenger travelling unreserved can purchase a ticket within 5 min with special devices. Framework to facilitate private investment has been readied. JV with major public sector companies for meeting requirements of new Railway lines.
Redevelopment of some stations will be processed through simpler processors for faster redevelopment, he said.
Rail cleaning will be outsourced, newly-manufactured coaches will be braille enabled to ease travelling for the blind. About 17000 more toilets to be replaced by bio-toilets.
Railways to initiate SMS alert service to inform arrival &departure timings. To integrate banking system with our multilingual web portal.
Railways also to introduce satellite railway terminals in major cities, 10 select stations.
Railways is collaborating with NIFT and NID for better bed rolls, inner coach designs, the minister said.
Meghalaya will finally be on India’s railway map.
The Railway Minister also proposed 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. Four Railway Research Centres in select universities for fundamental research have also been proposed besides ‘Malaviya Chair’ for Railway Technology at IIT (BHU), Varanasi.
Prabhu started his speech by recollecting Mahatma Gandhi’s love for Railways. Presenting his forward looking agenda, he said railways can eliminate poverty.
Musafir Namah Bureau