NEW DELHI: The NDA’s maiden Rail Budget, to be presented on Tuesday, aims at a complete makeover and improving the health of the cash-strapped Indian Railways, the largest mode of mass transport in the country. Innovation, modernisation, efficiency, punctuality, cleanliness, increased role of private sector and services top Railway Minister D V Sadananda Gowda’s agenda.
Gowda said the Budget should be about improving services, including modern amenities like bullet trains, airports-standard railway stations, quality food in trains, modern and clean coaches, safety, an effective grievance redressing mechanism, and technology-driven services like Wi-Fi in trains. After the bitter pill of 14.2 per cent increase in passenger fares last month, the Rail Budget would be more about presenting the government’s vision to improve the Railways.
Going to present my maiden budget as a @RailMinIndia minister today. Hope we are able to meet public expectations.— Sadananda Gowda (@DVSBJP) July 8, 2014
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dream of having a ‘Diamond Quadrilateral’ of high-speed trains is likely to get a space in the Budget, with even the possibility of Gowda announcing budgetary allocation for the country’s first dedicated high-speed corridor between Pune-Mumbai-Ahemdabad. After successful trials of semi-high-speed trains on Delhi-Agra route, the Budget could also touch upon extending the same to Delhi-Kanpur and Delhi-Chandigarh routes.
“There has been a big thrust from the Railway Minister on the bullet trains, and we have already submitted feasibility studies and fund raising modes to achieve this goal in the coming years,” said a senior Railway Ministry official, adding that monetary crunch continues to remain a big problem in completion of several ambitious projects.
Gowda, who has been praised for his managerial skills as former Karnataka Chief Minister, is also toying with the idea of modern coaches, with improved interiors and better colour scheme. He is likely to announce on a pilot basis, the use of disposable linens in Rajdhani trains. Cleanliness in trains and platforms is another key area, where announcements like introduction of intensive mechanised cleaning of coaches, pest and rodent control treatment, and clean train station schemes, are expected. Gowda is likely to rope in private players to ensure high levels of cleanliness.
Against the backdrop of two train accidents last month, Gowda must be weighing the idea of increased safety in trains, and money could be allocated for repairing the outdated and broken rail network. Using improved technology to prevent rail mishaps is also in the offing. Passenger safety being a high priority for the Railways, the ministry is also proposing to equip suburban and Shatabdi trains with automatic doors.
Demands have been pouring in for introduction of new trains and tracks. UP, Karnataka, Bihar, and Maharashtra, are likely to get preferential treatment.
Completion of pending rail projects in the North-East states will be another key area, and priority will be given to completion of pending national and strategic projects in the border states.