Saturday, July 4, 2009

Railway Budget (2009-10)

Union Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee presented the new Union Proggresive Alliance (UPA) Government’s first rail budget of for the ‘aam aadmi’ (common man) without tinkering with passenger fares or freight tariffs and instead focusing on passenger amenities. Like her predecessor, Lalu Prasad Yadav, she has presented a populist railway budget with no hike in fares or freight rates, but without Lalu's stress on efficient fiscal management and profitability. She begins with a slight fall in the railways income, which she attributes to exaggerated projections in the last budget.
In her second ‘avatar’ as Railway Minister she brought forward from her National Democratic Allaince (NDA) stint the concept of Public-Private Partnership (PPP) projects, saying the budget will focus on “inclusive growth” and expansion of the rail network to “take development to every corner of the country”.

Slew of Measures
Announcing a slew of measures including launch of 12 nonstop long-distance trains as well as airconditioned double-decker coaches for intercity travel, Mamata also spelt out concessions for the unorganised sector under the 'Izzat' (dignity) scheme.
Lalu had earlier announced a two per cent cut in passenger fares in the interim budget, she proposed a monthly season ticket of Rs 25 for people with an income of up to Rs 1,500 per month for travel up to 100 km. Other proposals included introduction of 57 new train services, extension of 27 trains and increase in frequency of 13 trains.
The Minister also announced special sops for students in Kolkata, for whom concessional monthly season tickets will be also applicable for travel in the city’s metro. The concessions will also be extended to students of madrasahs (Muslim educational institutions). The budget says the Railways will set up a 1,000 MW power plant. It plans to take over ailing wagon-making units like Burn Standards, run under the Heavy Industry Ministry, just to save 1,000 jobs in West Bengal. Her home state also gets a new coach factory. Seven nursing colleges will be set up on railway land in Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and other cities.
The Minister proposed an outlay of Rs 40,745 crore for 2009-10. Of this amount Rs 2,921 crore will be spent on new tracks, Rs 1,750 crore on gauge conversion and Rs 1,102 crore on passenger amenities, which is 119 percent over and above the funds allocated in the interim budget. Rs 424 crore will also be spent on amenities for railway staff--79 percent more than the interim budget.
Mamata also announced a new coach factory would be set up at the Kanchrapara-Halisahar railway complex in West Bengal with an annual capacity of 500 Electrical Multiple Units (EMUs), MEMUs and metro coaches in the joint venture private partnership mode.

Suburban EMU Trains
She also proposed introduction of ‘only ladies’ suburban EMU trains in Delhi, Chennai and Kolkata during office rush hours as well as airconditioned ‘yuva’ trains which, with lower fares, will serve young people and low-income groups. These will run from the major cities to the rural suburbs with fares ranging from Rs 299 up to 1,500 km to Rs 399 up to 2,500 km. Weekly services on a pilot basis will be introduced within three months between Delhi-Mumbai and Delhi-Kolkata.
Timely track renewal, modernisation of signalling equipment and use of digital ultrasonic flaw detectors will be introduced for the safety of train passengers, besides an integrated security system that will be installed at 140 ‘vulnerable’ train stations. All-women Railway Protection Force (RPF) squads for female passengers will also be introduced.
The minister announced a dozen new point-to-point nonstop ‘Turonto’ (quick) trains and also proposed introduction of airconditioned double decker coaches for intercity travel.
FiftY ‘train stations will be developed as ‘world class’ stations with another 375 to come up as ‘adarsh’ stations with improved basic amenities. Multi-functional complexes with shopping facilities, food stalls and budget hotels are to be constructed at 50 stations that serve as gateways for tourist and pilgrimage centers or serve industrial clusters.
An ‘expert’ panel to suggest innovative financing and implementation of the new projects is being set up, she stated. The budget also announced the formation of a committee under Sam Pitroda, currently chairman of the National Knowledge Commission, to commercialise Indian Railways’ optic fibre network.
The budget stated that the priority would be given to bring about a perceptible improvement in cleanliness, quality of catering, safety and security and punctuality of all trains. To improve the cleanliness the Onboard Housekeeping Scheme (OBHS) will cover 200 additional trains. Doctors and infotainment services will be available on long distance trains.
The budget also proposed 1,000 new locations for passenger ticket reservation as well as expansion of unreserved ticketing system terminals from 5,000 to 8,000. Besides, automated ticket vending machines will be installed at 200 large and medium sized train stations. Computerised ticket reservation at post offices and mobile ticketing service vans were also being considered.
On extension of facilities for the physically disabled, there will be more ramps, elevators, escalators and special coaches for physically challenged and aged passengers.
In freight and parcel business, the premium services for container movement with assured transit times was being considered.
The Indian Railways would acquire 18,000 new wagons this fiscal against 11,000 in 2008-09. Private ownership of special purpose rolling stock for commodities and private operation of freight terminals will also be encouraged. Premium parcel services with guaranteed transit times will be introduced on a pilot basis on three routes initially. Reiterating her priority to extend railway services to farmers, Mamata announced introduction of special trains to ferry perishable farm products like fruits and vegetables as also village handicrafts and cottage industry and textile products from production clusters to consumers.

Highlights of Railway Budget
* 57 new trains, a dozen of them non-stop.
* Poor to get Rs 25 monthly tickets for 100 km travel.
* Rs 1,102 crore for better passenger amenities.
* One doctor on each long distance train.
* Tatkal booking time to be cut from five to two days.
* Yuva trains @ Rs 299 up to 1,500 km.
* 50 ‘world-class’ stations to be set up.
* Double-decker trains on select intercity routes.
* 60 per cent concession on tickets to all students.
* Concession for scribes raised to 50 per cent.
* SMS updates for waitlisted passengers.

No comments: