New Delhi: Union Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu presented his second Railway Budget in the Lok Sabha on Thursday to thumping applause from his colleagues including Prime Minister Narendra Modi. While announcements of new trains and no cut in freight rates came as welcome news for passengers, following are five things the common man can look forward to:
1. Cleaner toilets: Sanitation woes have been a long standing problem in the country and travelling in long haul trains has been a nightmare for many due to badly-maintained toilets. Looking to resolve this problem, Suresh Prabhu announced that now one could demand the railway staff to clean the toilets on their coach by just sending a SMS. Also, 30000 bio-toilets will be built in the next financial year.
2. Free WiFi: Smart phone users have a lot to cheer for in the rail budget as Suresh Prabhu promised installation of free WiFi in 100 stations by the end of this year itself. The ministry has partnered with tech giant Google to fulfill this target.
3. Real time information on stations: The days when you had to keep looking out of the window to keep a track of what station went by or relying on passing vendors for an estimate of when you will arrive at your destination could soon be a thing of the past. The rail ministry said it would install GPS based displays on coaches to provide real-time updates on location and safety to passengers.
4. More women friendly: Aiming to make the railways more woman friendly, Suresh Prabhu said the middle berths would be reserved for women, keeping in mind their safety. And in a major announcement, women will be given 33 percent reservation in reserved quota.
And in a pleasantly surprising measure, Suresh Prabhu said that the railways would now have a children friendly menu and will provide hot milk and baby food. They would also make available baby boards for the ease of travelling mothers.
5. Easier booking options for both citizens and NRIs: 1,780 Automatic Ticket Vending Machines and Mobile apps have been introduced for easy booking of tickets. And for the first time, even Foreign tourists will now be able to avail the e-ticketing facility as foreign debit/credit cards will now be accepted during online transactions. This step would also make it easy for Non-resident Indians to book tickets, instead of relying on their local relatives for bookings.