No fare hikes, 52 new trains announced in India’s rail budget (Roundup)

February 24th, 2010 - 4:14 pm ICT by IANS  

Mamata Banerjee New Delhi, Feb 24 (IANS) Passengers were spared a fare hike, freight rates were lowered for some essential items and 52 new trains announced in India’s rail budget for 2010-11 that promises a new model to promote private investment in expanding the world’s second largest railroad network under a single management.
“We have saved Rs.2,000 crore ($40 million) because of the hard work of our employees and austerity measures. There will be no increase in passenger fares,” Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee told the Lok Sabha, the lower house of parliament.

“Our objective is inclusive growth,” she said in her marathon 110-minute speech, adding that her main consideration was social responsibility of Indian Railways rather than mere commercial viability of various projects.

Accordingly, she also announced a cut in freight tariff for kerosene and grain, upgrade of 94 stations, 522 diagnostic centres, target of 1,000 km new lines, 10 auto ancillary hubs, several high-speed passenger rail corridors, six new drinking water plants and housing for all railway staff in 10 years.

“We have set our goals in the Vision 2020 document and we will achieve it,” the minister said, referring to the document unveiled in December that has targeted making over 30,000 km of routes into double or multiple lines against 18,000 km today.

“It is a fact that administrative and procedural delays discourage potential investors. We will need to overcome this. I am setting up a special task force for this,” said the minister, dressed in a white and green sari and her trademark rubber slippers.

“Special structure will be created for the new business model,” she said, emphasising: “But we will not privatise railways. Indian Railways will remain with the government.”

At the same time, she also asked the private sector to refrain from what she called the “typical negative approach” while dealing with the Indian Railways. “I am sorry to say this — this mindset has to change.”

She, nevertheless, said a special task force will be set up to clear proposals for investments within 100 days and that policy guidelines in this regard will be made easy, simple and investment friendly to attract funds to the sector.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee were among those in the house, presided over by Speaker Meira Kumar.

This was Banerjee’s fourth budget of her career as railway minister and the second for the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in its second straight term after being voted back to office in May last year.

According to Banerjee, 117 out of the 122 new trains promised in her last budget will be flagged off by March 31, within a matter of seven months, which was a commendable effort.

Seeking to give safety issues due consideration, the minister said there were a few cases of unfortunate accidents in the past and said these would be prevented by adopting the highest level of technology and manpower training.

“Within five years, we will have 13,000 out of unmanned level crossings manned - 3,000 this fiscal and 1,000 in the coming fiscal,” she said, referring to the high number of accidents at such crossroads.

The budget came against the backdrop of the share of Indian Railways in the movement of goods, vis a vis truckers, falling from 24.07 percent in 2001-02 to 20.89 percent in 2008-09 and further to 19.32 percent in the first 10 months of this fiscal.

Yet, the minister said this fiscal will end with a net profit of Rs.1,328 crore. She added that the freight target for the coming fiscal will be 944 million tonnes.

Indian Railways runs the world’s second largest network under a single management with a network of 64,099 route km to ferry 18.9 million passengers on 7,000 trains daily from 6,906 stations. It also runs 4,000 freight trains to carry 850 million tonnes of cargo.

The main highlights of the 2010-11 railway budget include:

– No increase in passenger fares

– Rs.100 reduction in freight per wagon for fertilisers and kerosene

– Free travel for cancer patients in 3rd AC classes

– Cost-sharing in public-private-partnership (PPP) mode in some gauge-conversion projects

– Further extension of Kolkata Metro on priority basis; stations to be named after Bahadur Shah Zafar, Tagore family

– Karmabhoomi trains to be introduced for migrant labour

– New Janmabhoomi train between Ahmedabad and Udhampur

– Special “Bharat Teertha” train to be run around India to commemorate Rabindranath Tagore’s 150th birth anniversary

– Railway line to be extended from Bilaspur in Himachal Pradesh to Leh in Jammu and Kashmir

– Andaman and Nicobar Islands to get railway line from Port Blair to Diglipur

– Sikkim capital Gangtok to be connected by rail from Rangpo

– 2011 being 150th anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore, special train to be run from West Bengal to Bangladesh

– Gross earnings in 2009-10 estimated at Rs.88,281 crore

– Working expenditure in 2009-10 estimated at Rs.83,440 crore

– Expenses during 2010-11 estimated at Rs.87,100 crore

– Thrust on expansion in 2010-11 with allocation of Rs.4,411 crore

– Kashmir rail link to be extended to Sopore in the north of the valley

– Net profit of Rs.1,328 crore in 2009-10

– 10 automobile ancillary hubs to be created

– Twenty-two million energy saving CFLs for lighting distributed already

– Policy decision to employ one member of family whose land is requisitioned for railway projects

– North-south, east-west dedicated freight corridors to be created

– Construction of high-speed passenger rail corridors envisaged

– More multi-functional hospitals to be set up

– Educational facilities to be set up for children of 80,000 women families

– Special facilities to be established for gangmen

– Insurance facilities for licensed porters as part of railway’s corporate social responsibility

– Centre for railway research to be established with Indian Institutes of Technology and Defence Research and Development Organisation

– Will involve unions in policy making

– Integral Coach Factory Chennai to be further modernised

– New wagon repair shop in Mumbai

– Design, development and testing centre for railway wheels at Bangalore

– Within five years, all unmanned level crossings to be manned

– Construction of more underpasses, besides road overbridges

– Greater coordination with state governments to protect railway property

– Security of women passengers to be improved

– Ex-servicemen to be employed in Railway Protection Force

– Five sports academies to be set up

– Astroturf to be provided for development of hockey

– Employment opportunities for sports persons

– Railways to be lead partner for Commonwealth Games

– Special drive to increase passenger amenities

– Upgrade of 94 stations

– Six new drinking water bottling plants in PPP mode

– Modern toilets at railway stations

– More ticketing centres to help the public

– Acquisition of cutting edge safety technology

– 1,000 route km to be created

– Special task force for clearing investment proposals in 100 days

– New business model to be created

– No privatisation of railways

– But greater participation of private sector

– 117 of 120 new trains for current fiscal to be flagged off

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