NEW DELHI: Unlike last year when Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu refrained from announcing new trains and rail projects and focused on completing pending projects, the government this time is expected to announce a series of new rail projects in various states. This comes in the backdrop of the railways’ hope of achieving the highest annual target of 2500 kms of new lines in 2015-16.
Prabhu had last year focused on doubling and tripling of congested routes rather than announcing new rail projects and was keen on completion of projects pending for several years. “We have by December 2015 completed 1313 kms and are hopeful of achieving the target. This is the highest ever compared to 1650 km in 2013 and 1983 in 2014. In the past, we were able to achieve nearly 1000 km of target by December and going by the present target, we are way ahead,” said a senior railway ministry official.
The official further said new rail line projects are likely to be announced by Prabhu this year going by targets achieved so far even as the railways is falling short of earnings. The railways has earned Rs 136,079 crore as against the target of Rs 141,416 crore, a shortfall of 3.77 per cent. There has been some buzz that Prabhu is likely to announce a hike in passenger fares as the public transporter now has an additional burden of Rs 32,000 crore because of increased salaries and arrears under the seventh pay commission.
According to another senior railway officer, Prabhu in November had asked the Railway Board to come up with ideas for non-fare revenues. “We have submitted a proposal whereby railway earnings can be increased by not increasing rail fare. We have to wait and see how much of it makes it to the railway budget on Thursday,” the official said.
The budget is expected to focus on capacity creation in the rail sector with an expected increase in outlay of about Rs 1.25 lakh crore. The major pie is expected to be earmarked for safety upgradation, electrification, use of technology for improving services, doubling, improved catering and modernisation of yards to clear traffic bottlenecks.
Railways has already entered into joint ventures with six states, including Maharashtra, Odisha, Kerala, Andhra and Chhatisgarh to take up financially viable projects. To increase earnings, the railways will press into service many special trains on higher fares.
Here’s what Rail Minister Suresh Prabhu May offer this time
New trains, including specials, with higher fares
Focus on safety upgradation
Marginal hike in passenger fares to offset Rs 32,000 cr burden imposed by seventh pay commission
Electrification, use of technology for improving services