NEW DELHI: Union Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu may not have announced new trains in his maiden railway budget but has focused it around improving amenities. These include steps to enhance cleanliness, food supply and safety of women apart from setting up of passenger helplines and assistance to senior citizens.
Prabhu tried to offer something to all sections of society from women to senior citizens, diffabled to defence personnel and farmers to passengers travelling in unreserved coaches.
Calling cleanliness a major thrust area, Prabhu said, “ensuring higher standards of cleanliness is of utmost priority. We propose to create a new department for keeping our stations and trains clean. Integrated cleaning will be taken up as a specialized activity, which will include engaging professional agencies and also training our staff in the latest cleaning practices.”
The minister also stressed on major improvements in toilet facilities at stations and trains. He announced building new toilets covering 650 additional stations compared to 120 stations last year apart from bio-toilets that will be fitted on coaches. The railway minister also announced to look into the feasibility of disposable bags to collect garbage and extending coverage of built-in dustbins to non-AC coaches as well. A 24X7 all India helpline number, 138, was also announced for passengers to complain and seek solutions on a real-time basis. Besides that, a toll-free number 182 was also announced for receiving security-related complaints. Also, keeping in mind the growing number of smartphone users, he announced a mobile application to redress railway-related complaints which will be started on a pilot basis in Northern Railway from March 1, 2015.
Prabhu also said that they are introducing ‘Operation Five Minutes’ to ensure that a passenger travelling unreserved can purchase a ticket within five minutes. He announced a programme to improve design, quality and cleanliness of bed linen within the next six months with help of NIFT Delhi and extended the facility of online booking of disposable bedrolls at select stations to all passengers through the IRCTC portal.
Rail-cum-road ticket is to be extended to many stations. More general class coaches are to be added in identified trains and more air-conditioned EMU services would be introduced on Mumbai suburban section.
Tickets can now be booked 120 days ahead of travel date, instead of 60 days now, to tackle tout menace.
His Master’s Pet Projects
New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s key programmes found mention in the Budget as Railway Minister brought in measures to support Digital India, Swachh Bharat, Skill Development and Make in India. Railways will now work on ‘Swachh Rail, Swachh Bharat’. The digital India will get a leg-up with Wi-Fi connectivity in stations. He also announced that railways will manufacture equipment in India as part of ‘Make in India’ initiative and use of railway platforms in less rail traffic areas for opening training centres for women and youth.
Hits and Misses
Ten Good Things about the 2015 Rail Budget
No fare hike
Quick ticketing - operation five minutes for unreserved tickets
Satellite railway terminals in 10 major cities to decongest rush
New imported trains to reduce travel time by 20 per cent
Wi-Fi facility in 400 stations
67 per cent increase in passenger amenities
Focus on doubling, tripling and electrification of crowded routes
Operating rate 88.5 per cent, best ever in nine years
Elimination of 3,438 unmanned railway crossings
Coastal connectivity programme
Ten Bad Things
Drop in oil prices not reflected in passenger fare
No new trains
No major projects
No time-frame for bullet and semi-high speed trains
Up to 10 per cent increase in freight rates
Likely increase in steel, cement, urea and coal prices
Ambiguity over FDI in Railways
Lack of vision on reforms in Railways
No mention of 11 national projects & strategic border projects
Nothing new for last mile connectivity
On the Right Track
77 projects covering 9,400 km of doubling/tripling/quadrupling works along with electrification at a total cost of Rs 96,182 crore to be taken up
20% increase in track length that is from 1,14,000 km to 1,38,000 km
1200 km railway track to be made two/three/four lines in 2015-16 at an investment of Rs 8,686 crore
N-E states set to be Linked With new delhi
Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu on Thursday stated that his ministry has a ‘complete’ plan for the North-East that includes quickly connecting all state capitals in that region to New Delhi. “We have a complete plan... we have now already determined to join all state capitals of the region with Delhi. We are making an enormous funding. The Prime Minister has visited the area on many occasions and even I have gone with him,” Prabhu said .
How will you find money, asks shiv sena
The Shiv Sena criticised the Rail budget, saying it lacked clarity on how the money would come for the various projects. “They have said so many things in the budget. But from where will the money come?,” senior Shiv Sena leader and North-west Mumbai Member of Parliament Gajanan Kirtikar said.
Full-fledged railway UNIV COMING SOON
The Railways is in the process of setting up a full-fledged Railway University during 2015-16, Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu said while presenting the Rail budget, in addition to the four Railway Research Centres in select universities planned for the same fiscal.