Rail budget a damp squib, say Pune citizens

Jul 09, 2014, 08:00 IST | Anuj Ismail

Rail experts and commuters are not overly impressed by the changes proposed for the city by the rail budget; demand for more connectivity and better railway station

While Pune had a long wish list for the Ministry of Railways, the Railway Budget that was announced on Tuesday met very few of these expectations, eliciting a mixed response from commuters and railway experts in the city. 

Women for women: 4,000 women constables are to be inducted into the Railway Protection Force (RPF) to accompany women passengers in ladies’ compartments. Representation Pic/Sayyed Sameer Abedi

What Pune got
Three new air-conditioned Express trains have been introduced for the city: Nagpur-Pune, Pune-Nizamuddin (Delhi) and Nagpur-Amritsar via Pune. Apart from these, the Karjat-Lonavla section on the Pune – Mumbai route will get an additional fourth line. Services are often affected on this section due to landslides in the ghat section. Adding the fourth track will ensure that two routes are always clear for safe passage of trains.

The new budget also includes several new technological initiatives, such as real-time tracking of trains, Wi-Fi services in select trains and at all A1- and A-category stations.

Provisions have also been made for all major stations to be revamped to include foot over-bridges, escalators and lifts.

Passengers can also avail of amenities such as ready-to-eat meals and workstations on select trains.

What Pune wants
Citizens have been pushing for better amenities and seamless connectivity. They have long demanded that a special corpus fund be set aside to upgrade Pune railway station to international standards, and have asked for more frequent local trains, besides an additional train on the Pune — Mumbai route.

According to Harsha Shah, the president of the Railway Pravasi Group, a commuters’s body, the budget has brought fresh disappointment to the people of Pune.

“We were expecting a complete change in the railway infrastructure and services to the common man under Narendra Modi. We thought that the budget would lead to sanctioning of huge funds for the makeover of Pune station, which unfortunately wasn’t done,” she said.

“There is so much growth potential in metros like Mumbai and Pune, and both the cities have been conveniently forgotten by the railway ministry,” said Hemant Tapale, Pune Mumbai Pravasi Sangh.

Kanubhai Trivedi, of the Pune Pravasi Sangh, felt that there is no use launching so many infrastructure-related projects if they aren’t completed on time.

A disappointed Jugal Rathi, president of PMP Paravasi Manch, told mid-day, “The frequency of local trains needs to be doubled between Pune and Akurdi; there should be a local train every 15 minutes during peak hours and every 30 minutes otherwise. Pune also needs connectivity to Loni, Kalbhor and Urli Kanchan, which are currently connected by buses, which are both costly and unsafe.”

There are some, though, who are pleased with the new government’s maiden rail budget. Ajay S Shriram, president of the Confederation of Indian Industry, told this reporter, “The rail budget has presented a broad vision on what needs to be done in this critical sector in order to upgrade infrastructure and improve operational efficiency. The minister has been realistic and candid in acknowledging the problems faced in implementation of projects and improving revenue realisation.”

Railway budget highlights

Going tech savvy
>> Next Generation Ticket Reservation System
>> Wi-Fi Services in all A1 and A category stations and in select trains
>> Real-time tracking of trains and rolling stock
>> Mobile-based wake-up calls and destination arrival alerts for passengers
>> Station Navigation Information System

Passenger Amenities
>> Foot over-bridges, escalators and lifts at all major stations.
>> 17,000 Railway Protection Force (RPF) constables have been recruited and will be deployed, including 4,000 women RPF constables to protect female passengers
>> Workstations in selected trains on paid basis
>> Online booking facility of Railway Retiring Room will be extended to all the stations
>> Ready-to-eat meals onboard; major stations to provide option of regional cuisines
>> Bio-toilets will be increased sufficiently to mitigate the problem of direct discharge of human waste on the tracks
>> Parking-cum-platform combo tickets will be launched

In a press release, Central Railway stated that with the challenges posed by the steadily increasing urban population concentration in metros and in million-plus cities, a holistic approach to urban transport is required. A smooth and seamless inter-modal access is essential to improve urban mobility and, therefore, a passenger-centric focus will be given to urban transport infrastructure creation.



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