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Rail Budget: No hike in passenger fare


New Delhi : There is no hike in passenger fare in this year’s Railway Budget.

Presenting the Railway Budget in Parliament on Thursday Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu said the budget seeks to fulfil the long-felt desires of the common man such as reserved accommodation on trains available on demand, time-tabled freight trains, high-end technology to improve safety record, elimination of all unmanned-level crossings, improved punctuality, higher average speed of freight trains, semi-high speed trains running along the golden quadrilateral, zero-direct discharge of human waste by the year 2020.

He said the Cabinet approval has been received for re-development of stations under PPP (public-private partnership) mode.

Suresh Prabhu said the railways budget proposes to overcome challenges by reorganising restructuring and rejuvenating Indian Railways with the slogan ‘Chalo, Milkar Kuch Naya Karen’. The strategy for this will have three pillars – Nav Arjan (New revenues), Nav Manak (New norms), and Nav Sanrachna (New Structures).

In order to make travel by railways more comfortable, the Indian Railways proposes to give more facilities to the passengers.

As many as 65,000 additional berths will be provided in the trains and 2,500 water vending machines will be installed. The railways have developed world’s first Bio-Vaccum toilet and 17,000 Bio-toilets will be provided in the trains.

With the purpose of improving punctuality of trains operations audit from Ghaziabad to Mughalsarai section will be introduced. The railways proposes to introduce 1,780 Automatic Ticket Vending Machines all over the country with mobile apps and GoIndia smartcard for cashless purchase of UTS and PRS tickets. The capacity of e-ticketing system will be enhanced from 2,000 tickets per minute to 7,200 tickets per minute to support 1,20,000 concurrent users as against 40,000 earlier. 400 more stations will be provided with Wi Fi facilities.

As a part of social initiatives, online booking of wheelchairs and Braille-enabled new coaches will be introduced for ‘Divyang’. Increased quota of lower berths for senior citizens and women and reserving middle bays for women in reserved coaches has been proposed.

Passengers’ security will be enhanced through more helplines and CCTVs.

To reduce accidents at level crossings, the budget proposes to eliminate 1,000 unmanned-level crossings and closures of 350 manned level crossings. Besides, 820 Rail Over Bridges (ROB) or Rail Under Bridges (RUB) will be completed during the current financial year and work is going on in additional 1,350 of them.

Referring to the progress of Dedicated Freight Corridor Project, the Railway Minister said almost all contracts for civil engineering works would be awarded by the end of this financial year. He said Rs.24,000 crore worth contracts were awarded since November 2014 as against Rs. 13,000 crore contracts awarded during the last six years. Prabhu said the railways proposes to take up North-South, East-West and East Coast freight corridors through innovative financing, including PPP.

Underlining the importance of Jammu and Kashmir and North-eastern states, the minister said work on the Katra-Banihal section of the Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla Rail Link Project is progressing satisfactorily and 35 kms of tunnelling out of total of 95 kms has been completed. He said decongestion work on Jalandhar-Jammu section is in full swing and doubling of two bridges will be over by next month, while the other two bridges will be completed by 2016-17. In northeast, Mizoram and Manipur will shortly come on BG map of the country with commissioning of the Kathakal-Bhairabi and Arunachal-Jiribam Gauge conversion projects.

Giving the progress card of port connectivity projects the Minister informed that Tuna Port connectivity project has been commissioned and rail connectivity projects to ports of Jaigarh, Dighi, Rewas and Paradip are under implementation. He said implementation of rail connectivity for the ports of Nargol and Hazira will be taken up under PPP in 2016-17.

Referring to the financial performance, the minister said during 2015-16 a saving of Rs.8,720 crore could be achieved neutralising the most of the revenue shortfall with operating ratio of 90 percent. He said the budget proposes operating ratio of 92percent, restricting growth of ordinary working expenses by 11.6 percent after building in immediate impact of seventh percent , reduction in diesel and electricity consumption and Revenue generation of Rs. 1,84,820 crore for 2016-17. He said during 2015-16 investment would be close to double of average of previous five years.

Suresh Prabhu said the railways would be able to achieve annualised savings of Rs.3000 crore in the energy sector during the next financial year itself, a year earlier than announced. He said this could be achieved by procuring power directly at competitive rates.

The Railway Minister said social media will be used as a tool to bring in transparency. All procurement including procurement of works will be moved to e-platform. He said the trial of awarding tender electronically was successful and it will be rolled out on Pan India basis in 2016-17.

Giving an outline of the way ahead, the Minister informed Parliament that his Ministry proposes to take various measures to improve quality of travel which will include introduction of unreserved superfast Antyodaya Express Trains, introduction of Tezas train with the speed of 130 Km. and above with onboard entertainment and Wi Fi etc., unreserved Deen Dayalu coaches with portable water and higher number of mobile charging points and introduction of AC and non AC double-decker trains on busy routes with the potential to increase carrying capacity by almost 40%. Sale of tickets through hand held terminals; e- ticketing facility to foreign debit/credit cards; bar coded tickets, expansion of Vikalp – train on demand to provide choice of accommodation in specific trains to wait-listed passengers. E-booking of tickets facility on the concessional passes available to journalists; facility of cancellation through the 139 helpline post verification using ‘One Time Password’ sent on registered phone number, CCTV cameras on tatkal windows and periodic audit of PRS website will also be introduced.

Shri Suresh Prabhu said it is proposed to convert all operational halts into commercial halts for the benefit of common man. The Minister said Sarathi Seva in Konkan Railway will be expanding to help the old and disabled passenger. The existing services for enabling passengers to book battery operated cars, porter services, etc. on a paid basis in addition to the existing pick up and drop, and wheel chair services will be strengthened.

All stations under redevelopment will be accessible for Divyang. There will be at least one Divyang friendly toilet at each platform in A1 class stations during the next financial year and availability of wheelchairs in sufficient numbers at these stations will be ensured. Children’s menu items, baby foods, hot milk and hot water would be made available under Janani Sewa.

SMART (Specially Modified Aesthetic Refreshing Travel) Coaches will be introduced to ensure higher carrying capacity and provision of new amenities including automatic doors, bar-code readers, bio-vacuum toilets, water-level indicators, accessible dustbins, ergonomic seating, improved aesthetics, vending machines, entertainment screens, LED lit boards for advertising, PA system.

It is also proposed to integrate all facilities into two mobile apps dealing with ticketing issues and for receipt and redressal of complaints and suggestions. With a view to improve customer interface information boards in trains enumerating the on-board services and GPS based digital displays will be installed inside coaches to provide real time information regarding upcoming halts.

Work is underway for the installation of a high-tech centralized network of 20,000 screens across 2000 stations for enabling real time flow of information to passengers and also to unlock huge advertising potential. All ‘A1’ class stations will be manned with duly empowered Station Directors supported by cross functional teams, to make one person accountable for all facilities on trains.

Prabhu said it is proposed to take up on priority the provision of passenger amenities and beautification on stations at pilgrimage centres including Ajmer, Amritsar, Bihar Sharif, Chengannur, Dwarka, Gaya, Haridwar, Mathura, Nagapattinam, Nanded, Nasik, Pali, Parasnath, Puri, Tirupati, Vailankanni, Varanasi and Vasco. Aastha circuit trains will be introduced to connect important pilgrim centres.

He said optional travel insurance for rail journeys at the time of booking and clean my coach through sms will also be introduced in due course. High speed passenger corridor from Ahmedabad to Mumbai will be developed with the financial assistance from Government of Japan. FM Radio Stations will be invited to provide train borne entertainment, Rail Bandhu Mazagine will be provided in all reserved coaches in all regional languages.

Referring to the financial performance of 2015-16 the Railway Minister said Stringent economy and austerity measures adopted to contain the Ordinary Working Expenses (O.W.E.) due to which budgeted OWE of Rs 1,19,410 crore decreased in the Revised Estimates 2015-16 to Rs. 1,10,690 crore i.e. by Rs 8,720 crore. BE provided for an appropriation of Rs. 34,900 crore to the Pension Fund. However, based on trend, the pension outgo moderately decreased to Rs. 34,500 crore in RE. Internal resource generation diminished and appropriation to DRF moderated to Rs. 5,500 crore in RE from the BE 2015-16 provisioning of Rs. 7,900 crore. Excess of receipts over expenditure in RE 2015-16 stands at Rs. 11,402.40 crore, while the plan size for 2015-16 is currently estimated at 1,00,000 crore i.e. the BE level.

Regarding Budget Estimates 2016-17 the minister informed that the Gross Traffic Receipts are kept at Rs 1,84,820 crore. Passenger earnings growth has been pegged at 12.4 % and earnings target budgeted at Rs. 51,012 crore. The freight traffic is pegged at incremental traffic of 50 million tonnes, anticipating a healthier growth in the core sector of economy. Goods earnings is accordingly proposed at Rs. 1, 17,933 crore. Other coaching and sundries projected at Rs. 6,185 crore and Rs. 9,590.3 crore respectively. OWE provides for the implementation of the 7th CPC. Pension outgo budgeted at Rs 45,500 crore in 2016-17. Higher staff cost and pension liability impacts the internal resource position of the Railways.

Accordingly, appropriation to DRF from revenue placed at Rs 3,200 crore and that from Production Units at Rs 200 crore. A withdrawal of Rs 3,160 crore from DRF on net basis proposed though the gross expenditure to be met from DRF in the Annual Plan estimated at Rs 7,160 crore. Rs 5,750 crore proposed to be appropriated to the Capital fund. With a draw-down of Rs 1,250 crore from previous balances in the fund, plan requirement of Rs 7,000 crore for repayment of principal component of lease charges to IRFC have been met. Railways are preparing a Plan size of Rs.1,21,000 crore in 2016-17, the Minister added.(ANI)

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