The Railway Minister presented his passenger-centric budget yesterday, not changing any existing fares and promising more comfort and cleanliness in the nation’s largest transporter
New Delhi: Sparing fare and freight rate hikes, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu presented the rail budget for the next fiscal year with passenger amenities in focus, spanning ease of booking tickets and cancellations to actual travel comfort and cleanliness.
in the comfort zone: To increase passenger comfort on unreserved trains, the Minister has introduced the Antyodaya Express and Deen Dayalyu. Three new services have been introduced for reserved passengers. Pics/PTI
The minister possibly left a decision on fare and freight hikes to a later date, de-linking it from the budgetary exercise for the first time. The 68-minute speech mentioned the need for an independent watchdog for railways.
The minister also significantly enhanced the planned outlay for developmental projects to Rs 1.21 lakh crore. "This year, our investment will be close to double the average of previous years — a feat never achieved earlier," he said while tabling the budget in the Lok Sabha.
He said the quota of lower berths for senior citizens will be hiked by 50 per cent, more stations will come under special scheme for old and differently-abled passengers, and a new train ‘Tejas’ will be introduced.
"These are challenging times, maybe one of the toughest," he said, adding: "This budget will document a journey of transformation, the journey of our nation, by touching millions of human lives daily."
Spelling out his strategy, the Railway Minister said it would rest on three pillars of ‘Nav Arjan, Nav Manak and Nav Sanrachna (new revenue, new norm and new structure)’.
Before concluding his speech, Prabhu quoted the Buddha, saying that whenever one contemplates a journey, there are two mistakes one can make: not starting and not going all the way. "We have already started the journey and I intend to go all the way and we will not rest till we take Bhartiya Rail to a destination called samridhi or success," he said.
When Prabhu left the House, he had forgotten his suitcase. He walked back and picked it up before exiting.
Union Minister Suresh Prabhu said a dedicated, cross functional team called Special Unit for Transportation Research and Analytics (SUTRA) would be set up for carrying out detailed analytics leading to optimised investment decisions and operations. As an organisation, Indian Railways collects over 100 terabytes of data every year, yet it is hardly analysed to gain business insights. Facilities like ticketing and grievance redressal will be integrated into two mobile apps — one dealing with all ticketing issues and the other for receipt and redressal of complaints and suggestions related to all railway services.
Did you know?
India has the fourth largest railroad network in the world with some 64,460 route km, after the US (2,24,792), Russia (1,28,000) and China (11,200). Nearly 21,000 trains ply daily to ferry 23 million passengers and 3 million of freight.
65,000 Number of additional berths on trains
2,500 Number of new water vending machines
17,000 Number of bio-toilets in coaches
1,780 Number of automatic ticketing machines