THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: No new trains, no new railway lines, no catchy phrases - but the first complete Railway Budget of the BJP Government may give a lease of life to the doubling of railway tracks which is key to the state’s railway development and one of the core areas that the state government laid stress on in its memorandum to the Centre.
Around `300 crore has been allocated to the state for the doubling of railway tracks and improvement of existing lines - the work of which has been moving at a snail’s pace. However, the electrification and signalling works in the state have got very little attention in the Railway Budget.
“The biggest disappointment to the state is the meagre amount of `10 lakh allocated to the coach factory at Kanjikode. The budget is also silent on the Nilambur-Nanjangud project even though the state was also willing to share the expenditure,” Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said.
Though no new trains were announced, the stress given to increasing passenger amenities such as providing tickets to unreserved passengers within five minutes, increased lower berth quota for pregnant women and the elderly and a dedicated helpline number for women’s safety seems to have gone down well with the public.
‘’It is after many years that we are seeing a passenger-oriented budget. While increasing the number of general coaches in trains, emphasis has also been given to passenger security. The Centre seems to have finally realised that completing existing projects that are cash-starved is more important than announcing random new trains,” said Paravoor Sajeeb, state president of Railway Passengers Association.
According to Thiruvananthapuram Divisional Railway Manager Sunil Bajpai, the state need not feel disheartened at the fact that no new trains have been announced.
“Our railway lines are already saturated. Providing adequate funds for improving rail infrastructure and increasing the number of coaches in existing trains are what the state needs and both have been addressed in the budget,” he said.
However, the budget was conspicuous for its silence on the state’s demands such as the proposed wagon factory in Cherthala, a peninsular railway zone for the state, suburban rail services and installation of automatic signaling system.
Though the state was expecting a big boost from the Centre for the Angamali-Sabari railway project, it only received a token allocation of `5 crore.
The state government’s proposal for a railway line to link the upcoming Kannur greenfield airport was also cold-shouldered by the Centre.
It is said that the imminent spurt in the price of essential commodities due to the hike in freight charges will affect a consumer state such as Kerala the most.