The Railway Budget has been presented in the Parliament today.
No increase in freight rates, moderate hike in passenger fare, introduction of 75 new express trains, construction of new lines in the underdeveloped parts of the country, modernisation of railways, a new body to ensure passenger safety and disaster management, setting up of more railway lines and infrastructure through Public private partnership, better passenger amenities, concessions for patients suffering from serious ailments and setting up of green railway stations are some of the highlights of the rail budget presented in the Lok Sabha today.
Presenting a five year roadmap for the development of railways, Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi exuded confidence that building a new, safe and modern passenger and freight transportation system, would contribute at least 2 to 2.5 per cent to the GDP of the nation as against less than one per cent at present and provide employment opportunities.
In his maiden Rail Budget, Mr. Trivedi said the Railway budget for the next fiscal has a plan outlay of 60,100 crore rupees with 24,000 crores from gross budgetary support. Giving details, the Railway minister said passenger fares will be increased by 2 paise per kilometer for suburban and ordinary second class, 3 paise per kilometer in second class of mail and express trains, 5 paise per kilometer for sleeper class and 10 paise per kilometer for AC chair car, AC 3 tier and first class. However, the minister said for AC 2 tier the increase will be 15 paise per kilometer and 30 paise per kilometer for AC first class. The Minister said minimum fare and platform tickets will cost five rupees.
The Railway Minister said 75 new express trains will be introduced while run of 39 trains will be extended and frequency of 23 trains is proposed to be increased. 21 new passenger, 9 DEMU and 8 MEMU services will also be introduced. The budget also proposes introduction of 187 additional sub urban services in Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata.
The Minister said 50 per cent concession will be given to patients of Aplastic Anaemia and Sickle cell Anaemia in AC two, AC three, chair car and sleeper classes. The facility of travel by Rajdhani and Shatabdi trains have been extended to Arjuna awardees. The travel distance under Izzat scheme has also been increased from 100 kms to 150 kms.
On passenger amenities, Mr. Trivedi also proposed to set up Indian Railway Station Development Corporation to redevelop 100 stations in the next five years and maintain them on the pattern of airports under public private partnership mode. He proposed to raise the allocation for passenger amenities from the current 762 crore rupees to 1102 crore rupees in the current fiscal to be utilised at 8000 railway stations across the country.
The Minister announced 725 kilometers of new lines, 700 kilometer doubling of tracks, 800 kilometer gauge conversion and 1100 kilometer electrification in the next fiscal. He said 6872 crore rupees have been provided for new lines, while 3393 crore rupees have been given for doubling of tracks and 1950 crore rupees for gauge conversion and 828 crore rupees for electrification have also been provided.
Giving highest priority to the safety related issues, Mr. Trivedi said signaling system of Railways will be modernized with the provisioning of advanced technological features. He said, these would include panel or route relay interlocking covering 700 more stations by 2014. He also said interlocking of more than 1500 level crossing gates in addition to the 10000 already interlocked will be done.
The Minister said train protection and warning systems would be installed on more than 3000 route kilometers. He said this would cover the entire automatic signaling territory on Indian Railways. The Minister said the signaling and telecom works would cost 39,110 crore rupees in the next five year and proposed to provide 2002 crore rupees in the current fiscal for this.
To ensure better safety of passengers, Integrated Security System will be installed at all 202 identified stations. Escorting of trains by railway protection force and government railway police has been extended to 3500 trains.
Mr. Trivedi proposed to set up a Railway safety authority to ensure better security for passengers. He also proposed to set up a Railway Research and Development Council at the apex level to spearhead such efforts in line with recommendations of Kakodkar Committee.
Mr. Trivedi said that the modernisation of railways will be taken on a ‘Mission Mode’ approach with clear objectives, measurable milestones, tangible deliverables and well defined timelines. There will be mission directors in each of the identified areas for a three year term who will directly report to the railway board. Each mission would be provided with appropriate budget and operational autonomy.
Talking of the budget estimates the Minister said a target of 1025 million tones of freight loading has been envisaged which is 55 million tones more than the the loading last year. He also sought to create a Logistic Corporation for development and management of existing railway goods and sheds which will bring down the operating costs.
He announced to set up a coaching complex in Navi Mumbai at Panvel and coach maintenance complex at Kalamboli in partnership with Maharashtra government. The Minister proposed to set up a coaching terminal at Naihati to be named after Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay to commemorate his 175th birth anniversary. Mr. Trivedi said a special train across the country will travel to spread the message of Bankim Chandra who gave the country Vande Matram.
The Minister observed that there is emergent need to connect the remote and areas through rail connectivity schemes to foster growth. Besides there are projects of national importance in north-eastern regions and in Jammu and Kahsmir which are crucial to inclusive growth. He said the PradhanMantri Rail Vikas Yojna conceptualized on these lines, is under formation. He said an additional funding assistance of Five Lakh Crore rupees will be needed for this.
Saying that Indian Railway has to play a significant role in augmenting the economy of the country, Mr. Trivedi said that his ministry is taking up projects to provide rail connectivity to Nepal and Bangladesh. He proposed to have a rail link to connect Agartala in Tripura with Akhaura in Bangladesh apart from Jogbani in Bihar to Biratnagar in Nepal.
For efficient freight transportation to and from ports and to facilitate decongestion of routes, development of dedicated freight corridors from Ludhiana to Dankuni and Dadri to Jawaharlal Nehru port have been undertaken.
The Minister said this is one of the biggest infrastructure projects under execution spread over 3300 kilometres covering eastern, northern and western parts of the country. He said several initiatives are being taken to set up rail based industries. He announced that Rail Wheel plant at Chhapra would be ready for full commissioning in this year.
Mr. Trivedi said the Rae Barelli Coach Factory if now ready for rolling out coaches and Diesel Component Factory at Dankuni is under trial production while Wagon manufacturing factory at Kulti to commence production soon. He said another wagon factory is being located at Sitapali in Ganjam district in Odisha as announced earlier.
On public private partnership, the Minister said to facilitate the first and last mile connectivity proactively, Ministries of coal, power, shipping and steel were approached for identification of appropriate rail connectivity projects. He said a total of 17 such projects have been sanctioned and another 28 identified.
On high speed initiatives, Mr. Trivedi said that his Ministry has decided to construct high speed passenger rail corridors in the country for running trains at a speed of 250 to 350 kms per hour. He said pre-feasibility studies on six corridors have already been taken up.
One more corridor to be studies this year is Delhi-Jaipur-Ajmer-Jodhpur. Study of Pune-Mumbai-Ahmedabad corridor has been completed. The Minister mentioned that Kerala govt. is also pursuing a high speed corridor between Thirunanathapuram to Kasargod. He said National High Speed Rail Authority is under formation.
As part of the Green Initiatives, the Minister proposed 72 mega watt capacity windmill plants to be set up in Andhra Pradesh, Karnatka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal.
He also proposed to set up 200 remote railway stations as green energy stations powered entirely by solar energy and providing solar lighting system at 1000 manned level crossing gates. He also announced commissioning of two bio diesel plants at Raipur and Tondiarpet besides introduction of a green train to run through the pristine forests of North Bengal.
Admitting that most of the projects approved in the last budget could not be completed in a time bound manner, the Railway minister said this was largely due to inadequate level of budgetary support.
He, however, maintained that a total of 487 projects of new lines, gauge conversion, doubling and railway electrification with a throw-forward liability of over one lakh crore rupees are at various stages of execution.