No increase in passenger fares and freight charges has been proposed in the rail budget for the year 2011-12 presented by Railway Minister Ms. Mamta Banerjee in the Lok Sabha today.
Introduction of nine new Duranto trains, increase in the frequency of five existing Durantos, Three new Shatabadi on Pune-Secunderabad, Jaipur- Agra, Ludhiana-Delhi routes , 56 new express trains and 13 new passenger services , new Super AC class are among the other features of the rail budget .The other high light of budget proposals are:
â–ºTen Rajya Rani express trains connecting state capitals with important cities in respective states.
â–ºSpecial Janam Bhumi Gaurav trains to promote tourism to run on four routes connecting important historical and educational places
â–º Introduction of Four Kavi Guru Express and an equal number of Vivek Express trains to commemorate the 150th birth anniversaries of Rabindrarnath Tagore and Swami Vivekanand
â–ºAC double-decker services on Jaipur-Delhi and Ahmedabad-Mumbai routes.
â–ºRail concession to physically challenged and Kirti and Shaurya chakra awardees will cover Rajdhani & Shatabdi trains . Concession for Senior Citizen is being increased from the present 30 to 40 percent for men.
â–º Women to avail this facility from the age 58 years from 60 years. Concessions of 50 percent to press correspondents with family are proposed to be increased to twice a year.
â–º Introduction of Go India smart card to serve as a single window package for booking tickets.
â–º Internet access on a pilot basis in Howrah Rajdhani Express, Rail Yatri Sevaks with modern trolleys in six more stations and new portal for e ticketing are among the passenger amenities announced. .
â–º1,300 km new lines will be completed besides 967 km doubling, 1017 km gauge conversion are targeted for the next year.Increase in Suburban Services are also proposed in metropolitan cities survey for 107 new lines to be undertaken.
Outlining the road map of the railways for the coming year, Banerjee said 25 new lines will be added while six gauge conversion and 28 doubling projects would be taken up.
Reaching out to the poor, Ms Banerjee announced Sukhi Griha scheme under which 10,000 dwelling units for those living along the rail track sides will be provided. The housing units will come up in Mumbai, Sealdah, Siliguri and Tiruchirapalli on pilot basis. A scheme “Pradhan Mantri Rail Vikas Yojana has also been proposed for implementing social projects of the railways during the 12th plan.
Describing the safety and security of the passengers as a first priority, Ms. Banerjee outlined a number of steps to be taken in this direction. The introduction of Anti Collision Device will be expanded to new areas covering eight of the 17 railway zones. 2011-12 declared as a year of green energy and several initiatives announced in this connection include free supply of CFLs to railway households and use of bio-diesels, CNG and LNG in Locos and workshops and the increase the use of solar energy.
Listing the initiatives to further expand Rail based industries, Ms. Banerjee announced the setting up of a bridge factory in Jammu and Kashmir & establishing a state of the art Institute for Tunnel and Bridge Engineering at Jammu. A metro coach factory will be set up at Singur, diesel locomotive centre in Manipur and Centre of Excellence in Software at Darjeeling.
Setting up of two more Wagon units under Public private partnership mode at Kolar,Allappuzha and Buniadpur.
She also announced setting up of two Rail Industrial Parks at Jellingham and new Bongaigaon and a 700 MW gas-based power plant at Thakurli in Maharashtra.
Proposing the highest ever investment plan by the railways, Ms Banerjee said the annual plan outlay has been pegged at 57,630 crore rupees out of which 10,000 crores rupees would be raised through tax free bonds. She said for the first time railway earnings are set to exceed 1 lakh crore rupees.
Construction of new lines in Maharashtra, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and Jharkhand to give impetus to growth in under-developed areas. Non lapsable fund for railway projects in North East region will be created, besides all state capitals in the North East except Sikkim is to be connected in the next 7 years.
Setting up Railway Vidyalay Prabandhan Board to improve the quality of education in 269 Railway schools, increasing the scholarship of girl child of gang men and group D employees for higher education, an additional 20 hostels for children of railway employees and 20 road medical vans for employees staying in remote areas will be provided in the coming year for the Railway staff.
Reacting to the rail budget, the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said that it will help in weakening inflationary pressure as there has been no increase in fares and freight charges. Stating that Mamta Banerjee has done a commendable job, Dr Singh said that Ms Banerjee has taken care to increase investment in critical areas of infrastructure which will supplement growth momentum of the economy,
Mr Anant of the BJP described the budget as an election manifesto for the coming assembly polls in West Bengal
Refuting charges that her budget is populist and West Bengal oriented Ms Bannerjee said that she had kept the interest of the nation in mind and given projects to every region.
Sitaram Yechury termed the rail budget an exercise in deceit with cunning juggling of figures. Describing the budget as unrealistic, CPI’s D Raja said that there is nothing spectacular. The Congress spokesman Manish Tiwari said the budget shows the concerns and sensitivity towards common man.
With no increase in fares people are generally happy but feel that rail services need to be improved