New Delhi — Without increasing passenger fares, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu presented his maiden budget for Indian Railways in the Lok Sabha today, promising to balance passenger needs and long-term interests of the organisation and benchmark it globally on quality, safety and reach.
"There will be no hike in railway passenger fares. We will focus on improving passenger amenities including cleanliness," Railway Minister Prabhu said.
"Railways facilities have not improved substantially for the past few decades which is the result of under-investment that affects capacity, leading to poor morale. This fed into vicious cycle of chronic under-investment for a long time," he said.
Emphasising that safety, quality of service, standards and efficiency all suffered due to poor financial resources available with the Indian Railways in recent decades, the minister said all this further fed into the vicious cycle of poor investment.
#RailBudget2015 is consumer-focussed, financially bold, reformist, high on governance and transparency.
Congrats @sureshpprabhu!— Gautam Chikermane (@gchikermane) February 26, 2015
"This must be put to an end," said the chartered accountant-turned-politician, who was handpicked by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to head one of the largest railway network in the world. "We have to make Indian Railways a benchmark organisation in safety, security and infrastructure."
Earlier Prabhu presented a white paper on Indian Railways, which he said will form a trilogy of what plans he had in mind for one of the largest such networks in the world along with his budget for 2015-16 and a Vision 2013 document to be presented later in the year.
#RailBudget2015 is a forward looking, futuristic & passenger centric budget, combining a clear vision & a definite plan to achieve it.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) February 26, 2015
He also set four goals to transform Indian Railways: Improved customer experience, safer travel, modern infrastructure and financial self-sustainability. "We will also create a separate department for taking care of cleanliness."
Here are some of the highlights:
- Priority to improve capacity on high density network in next five years.
- Railways to go through transformation in five years; to increase track capacity by 10 per cent to 1.38 lakh km.
- Railways to partner with private sector, PSUs and multilateral funding institutions: Minister Suresh Prabhu.
- Investment of Rs 8.50 lakh crore envisaged over the next five years: Prabhu.
- No increase in passenger fares: Railway Minister.
- People of India will own railways always; Railways will continue to be precious national asset.
- Railway helpline number 138 will become operational 24x7.
- Disposable linen on payment to be available at all stations.
- Toll free number 182 created for security related complaints.
- Rail-cum-road ticket to be extended to many stations; more trains to be added under scheme for ordering food while booking tickets.
- Introducing 'Operation 5-minute' to ensure ticketless passenger get regular ticket within five minute of entering station.
- Open wi-fi to be available at 400 railway stations; proposal to revamp the station re-development scheme.
- More general class coaches to be added in identified trains; more AC EMU services for Mumbai suburban section.
- SMS alert service to be introduced on train arrival/ departure; CCTVs to be introduced in select trains and suburban trains for women safety.
- Online booking for wheel chairs to be enabled.
- MPs urged to use part of their funds for improving rail facilities.
- Over 17,00 toilets on trains already replaced, another 17,000 to be replaced.
- Wi-Fi facility to be extended to category B stations.
- Open bids to be invited from private parties to develop railway stations.
- Operational ration of 88.5 percent targetted.
- Defence travel system developed to eliminate system warrants.
- Paperless ticketing system to be developed.
- New department to keep stations clean.
- Waste to energy conversion plants to be created.
- Toilets at stations need improvement; 650 additional toilets to be created in addition to 120 last year.
- Over 20,00 suggestions received on improving facilities.
- Vicious cycle of under-investment must end.
- 1,219 sections on network - most of them overworked.
- In next five years, intention to substantially augment capacity
- Four dedicated freight corridors to be completed this year; 6608 kms of track to be electrified.
- 5-year corporate safety plan to be ready in 3 months to identify annual quantifiable targets.
- Projects worth Rs 96,182 crore to expand capacity of 9,420 km rail lines.
- Wagon-making scheme to be reviewed to make it easier for private investment.
- Speed on nine corridors to be increased from 110-130 to 160-200 kms per hour.
- Feasibility report of high speed train between Mumbai and Ahmedabad expected by mid-2015.
- Rs 6,750 crore allocated for eliminating 3438 level crossings; 970 road-underbridge and road-overbridge to be constructed.
- Plan size raised by 52 per cent to Rs 111,000 crore.
(With inputs from agencies)