India witnessed another Railway Budget for the financial year 2016-17 earlier today in the Parliament. Union Minister for Railways, Suresh Prabhu presented his second budget in the Lok Sabha in the afternoon.
The new budget for the railways includes mostly the infrastructural development in various sectors. The minister started his speech saying that this budget will document a journey of transformation and journey of a nation with a three pillar strategy, .i.e. New Revenues, New Norms and New Structures.
Rs. 8,720 Cr. of budget was saved from the last financial year which will be put to use this year. In addition to this, Rs. 1,21,000 Cr. has been allocated for this year’s budget. The ministry is also hopeful of generating revenues of order of Rs. 1,84,820 Cr. for the next year and a 10.1% revised target of current year.
The budget had good news for both the passengers as well as freight movers as there was no hike in the fares. Instead the railways plan to generate revenues through non-tariff means by monetizing assets. Besides this, there was an increase of quota for senior citizens on lower berth by 50% and 33% reservations for women in the reserved quota in railways. Passengers will be able to cancel their tickets on the 139 helpline number.
A new purposed plan for freight service was also announced which included the (North-South), (East-West) and (EastCoast). A time-tabled freight container train has been proposed which will be run on a pilot basis.
Prabhu has also included the Make in India initiative in the budget where in two locomotive factories will be set up. The bidding for the same has started already. 17 states have already agreed to form joint ventures with the railway in order to help in the construction of rail-over-bridges. The budget has also accommodated the employment generation of 9 Cr. man days in 2017-18 and 14 Cr. man days of work in 2018-19.
17,000 bio-toilets and additional toilets at 475 stations will be installed under the Swacch Bharat initiative by the end of this fiscal year. He further added that the first bio-vacuum toilet has been already installed in the Dibrugarh Rajdhani Express. Importance has also been given to the cleanliness of the coaches.
Broad-Gauge Lumding-Silchar in Assam opened thus connecting the Barak Valley with the rest of the country. As a result, Agartala was brought into the BG map. Extended plans are in the pipeline where Manipur and Mizoram will be brought into the BG map.
The minister introduced new train services specifically targeted to the lower-income class background. UDAY Express, double-decker trains with an increased capacity of 40%, the TEJAS Express, a semi-high speed train with 130kmph speed and world-class services, the Humsafar Express, a third air-conditioned express with an optional catering service and theAntyodaya Express, a fully unreserved superfast train for long-distance routes. In addition to these trains, 2-4 Deen Dayalu coaches will be added to the long distance trains with drinking water and mobile charging point facilities.
Besides these trains, Ajmer, Amritsar, Gaya, Mathura, Nanded, Nashik, Puri, Tirupati, Varanasi, Nagapattinam and other pilgrim stations to be beautified. Two elevated suburban railway corridors – Churchgate-Virar and CST-Panvel to be constructed in Mumbai; Ring railway covering 21 stations to be revived with state participation. A passenger corridor project from Ahmedabad to Mumbai is underway with the help from the Government of Japan.
He also added that the IRCTC to manage catering services in a phased manner and finding possibilities where it can be made optional. 10 more IRCTC operated base kitchens will be made operational where local cuisines can be made available. In addition to this, Children’s menu, baby food, hot milk and water will be made available on the trains. There will be provisions installed like toilets for the physically challenged, ‘Divyaang’ on the A1 class stations during the next financial year.
Other than this, 400 stations will be developed with the help of PPP and equipped with Wi-Fi’s with 100 installed this year. Prabhu also announced that India’s first railway auto hub in Chennai will be inaugurated soon.