CHENNAI: The announcement of a number of facilities for the masses travelling by unreserved compartments as well as special initiatives for senior citizens has been welcomed.
Provision of mobile charging points in unreserved coaches, ensuring booking of unreserved tickets in 5 minutes (Operation 5 minute) and additional unreserved coaches on popular trains are some of the initiatives announced in the Railway Budget.
“Providing unreserved coaches with charging points is an excellent move which shows the humanistic side,” said a senior Railway official.
Senior citizens and ladies would be prioritised for lower and middle berths, while special ladders would be made available for climbing upper berths. “Such attention to minute details is fantastic. We got an idea of this when he asked for suggestions from mid and lower level officers. No minister has ever done that before,” said a Southern Railway official who met Prabhu during his maiden visit to Chennai a few months ago.
MP Anwar of the confederation of All India Rail Users Association was circumspect about the announcements. “They need to ensure that there are a considerable number of charging points in unreserved coaches or else fights will ensue. Moreover, how will they make the 5 minute plan possible when majority stations don’t have Automatic Ticket Vending Machines (ATVMs),” he wondered.
S Mohanram of the ZRUCC said that most ATVMs were either dysfunctional or not manned by commercial staff.
Railway officials across the board were unanimous in pointing out that for the first time in Railways’ history a budget had been announced with a focus on technology and passenger amenities without any big-ticket projects. “Earlier ministers announced projects which were never implemented. It’s better that Prabhu has not announced anything and concentrated on the work on hand. He has shown foresight,” an official said, on condition of anonymity.
‘Raising advance booking to 120 days won’t help’
Chennai: Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu’s move to increase advance booking period to 120 days from the current two months will be disadvantageous, feel commuters. “Nowadays who is able to plan vacations four months in advance. Moreover, for peak season, tickets get sold out within 30 minutes. This will benefit the railways, but not the passengers,” said S Mohanram, member of a passenger committee. R Rajulu, a passenger, said the Railways has played itself into the hands of touts by this measure. Those arguing that Railways would be able to earn interest by retaining ticketing funds by an additional 2 months are mistaken, as the ticket money goes to the Consolidated Fund of India where no interest would accrue, said Abraham Jacob, former additional member of the Railway Board.
Royapuram gets a raw deal from Prabhu
Chennai: Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu has not allocated any funds to develop Royapuram station as the city’s third terminal station, a project in which his predecessor DV Sadananda Gowda and Union MoS for shipping Pon Radhakrishnan showed considerable interest. During his earlier stint as Railway Minister, Gowda had spoken of Royapuram terminal in Parliament and visited the site in September last year.
Braille stickers already on 25 coaches on trial
Chennai: While Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu announced about Braille stickers for the visually impaired inside coaches, Integral Coach Factory here has already incorporated this feature in 25 coaches in the last 9 months on a trial basis. “The Braille stickers will be on the seat numbers and toilet boards. Visually impaired passengers can touch them and know if its a western or Indian style toilet,” a senior official of ICF said, adding that the feature was added after a request from the Railway Board. “Now after the Minister’s announcement, it will be taken by Research Development Standards Organisation and the Board for implementation in all coaches,” the official added. The Railway budget has also sanctioned Rs 327 crore for an additional LHB coach manufacturing unit for the ICF.
Nil allocation for Madurai-bodi bg line
Madurai: In a setback for the Indian Neutrino Observatory (INO) Project, there is no allocation for the Madurai-Bodi broad gauge line in the railway budget. Scientists engaged with the INO had hoped that speedy execution of the 90-km line would facilitate transportation of steel plates. “A total of 15,000 iron sheets weighing 3.5 to 4 ton have to be transported from Salem steel plant to the underground basic science research laboratory near Pottipuram village at Bodi hills,” said a senior INO scientist. Cost escalation had already pushed the total project outlay from Rs 1350 crore to Rs 1500 Crore. “Now, we will have to take the iron sheets through road, adding up to the cost,” said sources. The gauge conversion was announced in the 2009-10 Railway budget and the metre gaugue was dismantled in 2010.