There will be no increase in the passenger fares of any class or category of trains. Freight tariffs will also remain the same for 2010-11. Service charges for e-tickets and freight charges for food-grains will be reduced. This was announced by the Minister of Railways, Ms. Mamata Banerjee in Parliament today while presenting Railway Budget for the new financial year.
Ms. Mamata Banerjee has proposed Rs.41,426 crore, the highest ever plan investment to provide efficient, customer focused and modern railway network. Out of this allocation, Rs.4,411 crore have been proposed to achieve the target of 1,000 kms. for new lines and Rs.1,302 crore for passenger amenities. The Plan would be financed through gross budgetary support of Rs.15,875 crore, Diesel Cess of Rs.877 crore, internal resources of Rs,14,523 crore and EBR of Rs.10,151 crore including market borrowing through IRFC of Rs.9,120 crore.
Presenting the Railway Budget for 2010-11 in Parliament today, the Minister said that the Railway is committed to take up socially desirably projects connecting backward areas of the country. Surveys for 114 projects for such areas will be updated and surveys for 55 new lines will be taken up during the year. She said that 800 km. Gauge Conversion and 700 km of doubling the rail line will be achieved during the year besides a number of new projects on cost sharing with state governments or through PPP route. She also proposed 52 new train services to meet increasing demand of passengers, increase in frequency of 12 train services, extension of 21 trains and introduction of some special trains.
Reiterating the Government’s commitment to provide efficient railway network within the reach of common man, Ms. Mamata Banerjee said that the target has been set to add 25,000 km of new lines in next 10 years. A Special Task Force to clear proposals for investments within 100 days will be set up, policy guidelines will be made easy, simple and investment friendly so that business community can join hands to build partnership with the Railways. But the Minister clarified that this does not mean that Railway is going for privatization, it will remain a Government organization, she asserted.
Highlighting the initiatives taken recently, Railway Minister said that within a span of 7 months, significant achievements have been made. She announced that out of 120 new trains, extensions and increase in frequencies announced in last budget, 117 would be flagged off by the end of 2010. Special drive for improving passenger amenities and cleanliness has been taken up. The Catering Policy is under revision to provide better food, six bottling plants to be set up to provide clean drinking water. 94 new stations will be developed as Adarsh Stations and 10 more stations will be upgraded as World Class Stations. She also announced construction of another 93 Multi-functional Complexes and to develop multi-level parking complex through PPP route.
Declaring that passenger amenities is a very high priority of the Government, she said that a number of initiatives are being taken for this purpose. SMS updates of reservation status and movements of wagons to freight customers is being initiated. Double-decker train-sets matching the best in global standards will be introduced in two trains each from Delhi and Kolkata as a pilot project. Modern trolleys at all important stations with uniformed attendants will be introduced to assist senior citizens and women passengers for carrying their luggage. Mobile vans for issuing e-tickets will be extended to government medical college hospitals, High Courts, District Court, University campus, IT hubs, IITs and IIMs. The Railway Minister announced that railway reservation ticket centres will also be opened at district headquarters and village panchayats to give more facility to common man.
In order to bring more transparency in freight business, the Railway Minister announced RFID technology will be introduced for tracking of wagons, allotment of the rakes would be accessible through the web.
Highlighting efforts being made for safety and security of the passenger, Ms. Mamata Banerjee said that the railway is developing crashworthy coaches and locomotives and will provide automatic fire and smoke detection system in 20 pairs of long-distance trains as pilot project. Manning of further 1,000 level crossing will be taken up during the budget year. She announced that in coming five years, all the unmanned level crossing will be manned. 12 companies of women RPF, ‘Mahila Vahini’ will be raised for security of women passengers.
The Railway Minister said that as assured, recruitment policy of Railway Recruitment Boards has been reviewed. Now onwards, question papers will be made available in local state languages also besides Hindi, Urdu and English, examination will be held simultaneously by all RRBs for a particular post. She also announced waiving of examination fee for women candidates and those belonging to minority and economically backward classes.
Reiterating her commitment for the welfare of railway employees, she said that a new scheme “House for All” will provide residence to all railway employees in the next 10 years with the help of Ministry of Urban Development. 522 hospitals and diagnostic centres, 50 Kendriya Vidyalayas, 10 residential schools on the pattern of Navodaya Vidyalaya, model degree colleges and technical and management institutions of national importance will be set up for the benefit of railway employees. She also proposed extension of ‘Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana’ to all licenced porters, vendors and hawkers. She also proposed setting up a Railway Cultural and Heritage Promotion Board and Shambhu Mitra Cultural Complex at Howrah for the employee. Rabindra Museum at Howrah and Gitanjali Museum at Bolpur are also proposed to mark the 150th birth anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore, she said.
In order to upgrade railway infrastructure, the Minister said that a centre for Railway Research will be set up at IIT, Kharagpur for research in key areas of railway technology and a state-of-the art advanced loco pilot training centre at Kharagpur and an advanced railway track training centre at Beleghata. To overcome of the shortage of coaches, new coach factories are being set up at Rae Bareilly, Kancharapara and Palakkad. A wagon repair shop will be set up at Badnera and a new Rail Axle Factory will be set up at New Jalpaiguri through PPP or Joint Venture mode. Besides 5 state-of-the-art wagon factories also through joint venture and PPP mode at Sikandrabad, Barddhaman, Bhubneshwar/Kalahandi, Guwahati and Haldia.
Ms. Mamata Bangerjee also announced ‘Kisan Vision Project’ for manufacturing refrigerated container for carrying agricultural products so that farmers are not forced for distress sale of their produce.
Proposing several new initiatives for freight business, the Minister said that Railways will introduce a modified wagon investment scheme for high capacity general purpose and special purpose wagons for carrying iron ore, coal and cement. A scheme to run special freight train by private operators for commodities such as automobiles, vegetable oil, molasses, chemicals and petrochemicals will be notified. A premium Tatkal Service for parcel and freight movement besides special wagons for iron ore, fly ash, automobiles will also be introduced.
Reiterating Railways’ commitment for time bound completion of dedicated corridors, the Minister said preliminary Engineering-cum-Traffic Surveys for North-South, East-West, East-South and South-South corridors will be taken up this year. She also said that Railways is also working on high speed passenger rail corridors, a National High Speed Rail Authority will be set up for planning, standard setting and implementing these projects.
In order to promote industrial activity, Ms. Mamata Banerjee said that Railways would welcome investment through PPP mode for providing rail connectivity to important ports. Additional 2,000 kms. routes will be electrified within two years. Work on adding another 12,000 kms. in existing Optical Fibre Cable network of the Railways is in progress. The balance 15,000 kms. is proposed to be taken through PPP mode, thus covering entire railway network.
Announcing upgradation and modernization of Kolkata Metro, the only Metro with Indian Railways, the Minister said that Metro Station at Park Circus, Maidan, M.G. Road, Chandni Chowk and Rash Behari will be remodeled and network will be extended at four sections. The Railway Minister also announced augmentation of sub-urban train services in Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata.
Ms. Mamata Banerjee proposed special trains – Sanskriti Express, across the country, to mark 150th birth anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore, Matribhoomi Express trains for ladies in Kolkata, Chennai, New Delhi and Mumbai and Karmabhoomi trains, unreserved trains for common people between Darbhanga-Mumbai, Guwahati-Mumbai and New Jalpaiguri-Amritsar. Similarly, Janmabhoomi Trains specially for uniformed persons, between Ahmedabad and Udhampur, Bharat Tirth Trains for tourists connecting popular sites in different parts of the country will be introduced during the year.
The Railway Minister also proposed four new Durontos trains between Chandigarh and Amritsar, between Chennai and Coimbatore, between Puri and Howrah and between Howrah and Digha.
To reiterate her commitment for the common man, Ms. Mamata Banerjee announced that there will be no increase in passenger fares of any class and in freight tariffs. In spite of tight resource position, the Railways has also proposed to reduce an amount of Rs.100 per wagon in freight charges for food-grains and domestic use of kerosene as a gesture to common man.
The Minister also announced reduction of service charges maximum to Rs.10 for Sleeper Class and Rs.20 for AC Class. She also announced 100 per cent concession for cancer patients going for treatment together with an escort in AC 3 class. Technicians of regional film industry when traveling for film production related work will also be eligible for 75% concession in second sleeper and 50% concession on other classes in all trains. The Minister also announced that concession under Izzat scheme, for press correspondents and students of madrasas will continue.