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Rail minister promises clean, fast, and tech-savvy Railways

mid-day gives you the lowdown on the prominent features of the rail budget and what it proposes to bring to Mumbai

Railway Minister D V Sadananda Gowda yesterday tried to walk the tightrope between a populist Railway Budget, and one which would be too harsh on commuters — keeping a wary eye on the financials as he did so. He announced several measures which, if implemented, will make the Indian Railways a little more hi-tech, hygienic and comfortable.

Authorities said that they would get private firms on a contractual basis for cleaning and maintaining railway stations and trains. They would also keep a check on the quality of the work with the help of CCTV cameras. “We will ask the contractor to present their workers in front of the camera when they come for the cleaning job.

Earlier, we weren’t checking the number of persons they brought for the job,” said a senior Central Railway official. If the railways are to be believed, cleaning at almost 50 major stations will be outsourced to professional firms.

Railways have also approved speeds of 160 kmph to 200 kmph on existing corridors, calling these trains semi-highspeed. As far as safety is concerned, the Railway Protection Force (RPF) is currently in the process of recruiting 17,000 constables. 4,000 women RPF constables will also be taken on, to provide security to women in ladies’ coaches, both in suburban and long-distance trains.

New tech, new brands
The Railways also plans to bring closed-door local trains to the city. Additionally, they claim the city’s first AC local train will arrive by September this year. The new Bombardier rakes, which are currently being tested, will also be procured in the next two years.

Outstation travellers have 8 new long-distance trains from the city, and A1- and A-category stations, such as CST, Dadar, Andheri, Churchgate, Thane, etc will have Wi-Fi connectivity. Major stations will also get battery-operated carts to ferry disabled and senior citizens.

If the quality of food appals you, there’s good news. Gowda announced that the railways are in talks with brands like McDonald’s, KFC, Subway, Kamat’s etc, to set up outlets on stations. You can order food, via email or phone, from these brands and will be able to get your food delivered to your seat when your train arrives at the station where the outlet is present.

Food courts are in the offing at major stations and authorities will also conduct a third-party audit to improve catering services on trains. Passenger feedback will be taken via IVRS systems, and shoddy service will lead to cancellation of the caterer’s contract.

CM unhappy with rail budget

Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan is miffed with the Railway Minister for ignoring his demands in the Railway Budget yesterday. “It’s a very tepid budget compared to the one presented during the UPA rule,” said the CM in his reaction to the Budget presented in Parliament yesterday.

Chavan had submitted a copy of his letter to railway minister D V Sadananda Gowda, which he had sent to his predecessor Mallikarjun Kharge in January this year. But, Gowda has turned a blind eye towards Chavan’s wishlist.

“Nothing special has been offered to the state, even though the new railway minister was apprised of the state’s issues,” the CM said, adding that the lack of provisions for the Mumbai Urban Transport Project may hamper development in Mumbai.

Chavan said that, despite public demand, there were no commitments made towards the Pune-Nashik and Parli-Beed-Nagar railway routes. He had also demanded approval for six new projects from Vidarbha, north and western Maharashtra, an increase in services from Dahanu, Virar and Borivli, and Rs 100 crore for the Panvel-Karjat and Airoli-Kalwa corridors.

Besides this, he had asked for increased facilities for railway commuters in view of the Ardha Mahakumbh, at Nasik Road, Deolali and Odha stations. “But, hardly any demand from the state has been met with a positive response,” said an official from Mantralaya.

What the city got in the budget

Brands on board
Soon, you can order from McDonald’s, KFC, Subway, Kamat’s etc and get the food delivered to your seat. Rail authorities are in talks with these brands to open their outlets at major stations. Passengers can order, via email or phone, and get them to deliver food inside the train

No more hanging by the door
Railways wants to put an end to travelling on the footboard. Within the next two years, authorities said, local train rakes with closed doors will be brought in. They also claimed that the city’s first AC local train will arrive by September. Besides this, the 72 new Bombardier rakes will also be procured under MUTP-II.

Workstations in trains
The railways will provide you with workstations for your business needs while travelling. Initially, on a pilot basis, trains like Rajdhani, August Kranti and Duronto Express will have these computers. You will be charged a fee for using them.

Security
17,000 RPF constables will be recruited. Another 4,000 female constables will be hired to patrol ladies’ compartments on local as well as long-distance trains across the network. These constables will be given a special mobile phone for emergencies.

Safe drinking water
Railways will be introducing reverse osmosis (RO) drinking water on a pilot basis at stations and inside the trains.

New trains from Mumbai
Jaynagar-Mumbai Jansadharan Express; Mumbai – Gorakhpur Jansadharan Express; Mumbai Central – New Delhi Premium AC Express; Lokmanya Tilak Terminus – Lucknow (weekly); Lokmanya Tilak Terminus – Azamgarh (weekly); Mumbai – Kazipeth Express via Balharshah (weekly); Bandra (T) – Jaipur Express (Weekly) via Nagda, Kota; Mumbai – Palitana Express (Weekly)

New rail lines
Allocations will be made to lay new lines, mainly on Central Railway: Kalyan-Kasara (3rd line), Kasara-Igatpuri (4th line), Karjat-Lonavla (4th line), Diva-Kalyan (5th-6th lines)

Other passenger amenities
>> Development of identified stations to international standards, with modern facilities and passenger amenities, on the lines of newly-developed airports through PPP mode, is also on the cards. Initially, Indian Railways will develop at least 10 major stations in metros and important junctions with state-of-the-art facilities, leveraging land and airspace in and around the stations.

>> Foot-overbridges, escalators and lifts at all major stations including through PPP route.

>> Earnest attempt this year to provide sufficient water supply, platform shelters and toilets at the railway stations.

>> Extension service of battery-operated carts to facilitate the movement of differently-abled and senior citizens across platforms at all major stations.

>> Wi-Fi services in all A1- and A-category stations and in select trains

>> E-ticketing to support 7,200 tickets per minute as against 2,000 tickets per minute and allow 1,20,000 simultaneous users at any point in time

>> Online booking of railway retiring room will be extended to all stations during the course of the year

>> Choose coach and seat numbers online, depending on availability

>> Efforts to be made to provide facility of buying platform tickets and unreserved tickets online

>> Experimenting with coin-operated Automatic Ticket Vending Machines

>> Parking-cum-platform combo tickets to save time

Voices

Narinder Nayar Bombay First, a think-tank
Shutting doors of local trains and introducing AC trains is a good step. However, they should also increase the capacity of trains, so that more people can be accommodated. Cleanliness at railway stations and trains is required, so the Railways has taken a good initiative. But, it has to implement these steps.

T N Dubey president, Naisargik Viklang Seva Sangh, a body of disabled passengers
In Mumbai, thousands of passengers have physical disabilities, but the Railway Budget has nothing for us. We were expecting some special attention for us in this Budget

Anil Galgali president, Athak Seva Sangh, a commuters’ body
Mumbai hasn’t got any new projects or special packages, even though railways earns a substantial share of its revenue from Mumbai

Ashok Bhatia general secretary, Vasai Road Yatri Sangh, a commuters’ body
We are happy with the budget, as they have announced 72 new rakes for suburban passengers. Also, the increase in speed to 200 kmph is a good initiative. We are only upset that there is no announcement for Indore.

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