New Delhi: Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu walked the tight rope between populist measures and much-needed reforms as he presented his maiden Railway Budget in Parliament today. But one thing the minister made clear at the beginning of his speech was that he would not tax the people to lighten the financial burden on Railways. There will be no increase in passenger fares, he said.
He, however, broke a long tradition for Railway Budgets by announcing no extra tracks or new trains.
Prabhu underlined that improvement of connectivity was a priority for his government as investment in Railways will create more jobs and environmental sustainability.
He said the government will invest Rs 8.5 lakh crore in the next five years. Faced with a major challenge to generate funds, Prabhu said banks and pension funds have shown keenness to invest in the railways.
Linking the progress of the Railways with that of India, Prabhu said rail transport must be made reliable, comfortable and according to global standards. “We will make rail a safer means of travel,” he said.
Prabhu underlined that chronic underinvestment has led to poor development of the Railways and that his government’s priority this term would be to improve capacity in high-density networks.
Prabhu set four goals for the transformation of Indian Railways – customer experience, safe travel, modern infrastructure and a financially self-sustainable model.
Prabhu unveiled facilities for self-operated lockers in stations, surveillance cameras in ladies’ compartments, onboard entertainment on Shatabdis, SMS alert service on arrival and departure of trains, toll-free number 182 for complaints and the freedom of passengers to choose meals.
He also said ‘Operation 5 Minutes’ would ensure that passengers traveling without reservation can buy a ticket in five minutes.
He said 17,000 toilets would be replaced by bio-toilets. “Cleanliness will be our first priority,” he said.
Track length would be increased by 20 per cent, hiking passenger capacity from 21 to 30 million, Prabhu said.
He said tickets can now be booked four months or 120 days in advance as compared to the present 60 days. There will be more bullet trains and all new coaches will be Braille-enabled.
The minister said safety was of paramount importance to him as loss of human lives is too heavy a price to pay. The ministry is putting in place a safety plan by 2015.
He announced some high-speed trains between Mumbai and Ahmedabad, Delhi-Kolkata and Delhi-Mumbai overnight trains, and said the speed of nine railway corridors would be increased.
Prabhu announced that investment in Railways would be Rs 856,021 crore by 2019.
Prabhu also said that his ministry received an overwhelming response and suggestions on social media during the formative phase of the Railway Budget 2015-16.
"We received over 20,000 responses from people on social media and some of the suggestions are there in the budget," he said in his maiden budget speech in parliament.
The rail ministry had launched its Facebook and Twitter pages in July last year.
Here are more highlights from Railway Budget, 2015:
- Skill development and self-employment to be encouraged on Konkan Railway model.
- To impart soft skills to our staff we intend to impart regular training to our staff.
- Will monetise rail assets rather than sell them.
- We are launching a coastal connectivity programme this year.
- Speed on nine corridors to be increased from 110-130 to 160-200 kms per hour.
- Propose to get system audit conducted for all Railways in next 2 months.
- Railway to move to paperless ticketing, to introduce hand held device for TTEs.
- Decentralise, deregulate and delegate to make freight business simpler.
- 917 safety work projects to eliminate over 3,000 unmanned crossings in all states.
- Railways propose to move from preventive to predictive maintenance.
- We are preparing 5-year safety plan which will be ready by June 2015.
- Safety is of paramount importance. Loss of human life is too heavy a price to pay.
- Transformation of Railways have huge opportunities for 'Make In India' campaign.
- Speedier Railway: 9 high-speed corridors, high speed trains, Make in India opportunities.
- High speed trains between Mumbai and Ahmedabad.
- Delhi-Kolkata, Delhi-Mumbai overnight trains.
- Construction of long-loop lines will be expedited.
- 1330 per cent increase in railway electrification over previous year.
- By 2019, the proposed investment in Railways would be in tune of Rs 856,021 crore.
- Meghalaya has been included in the Railway map of India.
- Now you can book rail tickets 4 months in advance against current 60 days.
- Committed to promote rail connectivity to northeast India.
- National Institute of Design to design ladders for climbing to the upper berth.
- Satellite railway terminals to be introduced in major cities in 10 select stations.
- Now one can book rail tickets 4 months (120 days) in advance against current 60 days.
- Govt welcomes bids from interested parties for revamp of stations.
- AC coaches in suburban trains in Mumbai.
- Railway cleaning will be partly outsourced.
- Middle berth will now be reserved for women and senior citizens.
- Trains sets similar to Bullet Trains will be introduced.
- All newly-manufactured coaches will now be Braille-enabled.
- Will increase quota of lower berths for senor citizens.
- One can wheelchairs for the disabled, pregnant women and senior citizens online.
- As part of 'Digital India' initiative, WiFi services on platforms to be provided.
- Facility of online booking of wheelchair for senior citizens.
- Facility of self-operated lockers will be made available at all railway stations.
- Surveillance cameras on select mainline and ladies' compartments.
- Onboard entertainment on select Shatabdi Trains.
- SMS alert services for passengers to inform them about arrival and departure of trains.
- Another toll-free number 182 to be made functional for security complaints.
- To provide freedom to passengers to choose their meals, e-catering has been introduced in 108 trains.
- We will increase number of mechanized laundry.
- Operation 5 minutes: Passenger travelling unreserved can buy a ticket in 5 minutes.
- Railways would utilize the Nirbhaya fund for augmenting safer travel for women.
- Helpline number 138 to address to the problem of passengers.
- 17000 more toilets to be replaced by Bio-Toilets.
- Will increase track length by 20 per cent and passenger carrying capacity from 21 to 30 million.
- Ensuring higher standards of cleanliness is our first priority.
- No increase in the passenger fares.
- Happy to report an improvement in our financial performance for the year 2014-15.
- Rail will continue to be our precious national asset, people of India will continue to own the railways.
- 4 goals for transformation of Indian Railways - customer experience to receive a huge boost, safer travel, modernize infrastructure and financially self-sustainable.
- We will work closely with the states to make railways the backbone of the nation.
- We have fixed goals for ourselves, we will make rail a safer means of travel.
- Rail transport must be made reliable, comfortable and should meet global standards.
- In the next five years our priority will be to improve capacity in high-density networks.
- Chronic underinvestment has led to poor development of Indian Railways.
- Investment in railways will create more jobs, environment sustainability.
- Expresses gratitude to PM Modi to serve the people of India through the Ministry of Railways, says Suresh Prabhu.
- Copies of Rail Budget 2015 at Parliament.