NEW DELHI: Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu Thursday refrained from increasing passenger fare and freight rates and announced to focus on looking for earnings from non tariff sources. Four new categories of trains aimed at people of different income groups, three dedicated freight corridors and country’s first rail auto hub in Chennai and better passenger amenities were announced by the minister.
With Railways falling short of meeting its revenue targets, Prabhu said that these are challenging times and we need to reorganize, restructure and rejuvenate this institution.
New announcements included Antyodaya Express, a long-distance, fully unreserved, superfast train service, for the common man to be operated on dense routes. Besides, two to four Deen Dayalu coaches will be added in some long distance trains for unreserved travel to enhance the carrying capacity.
Three new trains included Humsafar, fully air-conditioned third AC service with an optional service for meals, Tejas, showcasing the future of train travel in India and Uday Express to be introduced on the busiest routes, which has the potential to increase carrying capacity by almost 40 percent.
“Every customer is our brand ambassador, the very reason of our existence. Therefore, each time that he or she travels, the satisfaction quotient must go up,” said Prabhu while announcing passenger amenities.
Railways proposed to take three dedicated freight corridors -- North-South connecting Delhi to Chennai, East-West connecting Kharagpur to Mumbai & East Coast connecting Kharagpur to Vijayawada.
Prabhu’s budget has something for all age groups including women, senior citizens, youths and children.
For women travelers, Prabhu said that to mitigate the hardships that mothers undergo while travelling with their infants we will pilot availability of children’s menu items on trains including baby foods, hot milk and hot water would be made available on stations and changing boards for babies would be provided in train toilets.
For better security to passengers especially women travelers, CCTV surveillance are provided at 311 stations and all major stations will be brought under CCTV surveillance in a phased manner.
To make travel more comfortable, it is proposed to give more facilities to the passengers like 65,000 additional berths in the trains. On-board Housekeeping Service will be provided in another 400 are leading to a total number of almost 1000 trains under the scheme.
“As a part of social initiatives, online booking of wheelchairs and Braille enabled new coaches will be introduced for the Divyang. In the coming financial year, we are increasing the senior citizen quota per coach by 50 percent resulting in almost 120 lower berths per train for senior citizens,” said Prabhu.
Prabhu said that with the purpose of improving punctuality of trains operations audit from Ghaziabad to Mughalsarai section will be introduced. To woo youth and business travelers, Railways intend to commission Wi-Fi services at 100 stations this year and at 400 more stations in the next 2 years.
Also on plan is to invite FM Radio stations for providing train borne entertainment by installing PA systems in trains and for promoting tourism by providing tiger safari packages covering wildlife circuit comprising Kanha, Pench and Bandhavgarh.
To reduce accidents at level crossings, the budget proposes to eliminate 1000 unmanned level crossings and closures of 350 manned level crossings. 820 Rail Over Bridges (ROB)/ Rail Under Bridges (RUB) will be completed during the current financial year and work is going on in additional 1350 of them.
Prabhu also announced plans to commence sale of tickets through hand held terminals for the benefit of the suburban and short distance travellers. Besides, in the next 3 months, railways will open the e-ticketing facility to foreign debit/credit cards for foreign tourists and NRIs.
Bar coded tickets, scanners and access control on a pilot basis on major stations to tackle the menace of ticketless travel and ensure hassle free travel for passengers are also planned.
Prabhu announced introducing ‘Clean my Coach’ service on Pan-India basis, where a passenger can request cleaning of their toilets on demand through SMS. Railways are also working with insurance companies to offer optional travel insurance for rail journeys at the time of booking.