Fares cut, 43 new trains in Lalu Prasad’s interim rail budget

February 13th, 2009 - 3:26 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Feb 13 (IANS) Living up to his promise of easing the burden of average train passengers, Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Friday cut fares by two percent, introduced 43 new trains and said feasibility studies on starting “bullet trains” in the country were progressing well.
Presenting the interim rail budget for 2009-10 in parliament, Lalu Prasad also announced the extension of 14 trains, an increase in the frequency of 14 others, apart earmarking a higher plan outlay of Rs.379.05 billion (Rs.37,905 crore/$7.75 billion) towards expansion next fiscal.

“I have great pride that, in its journey of service to the nation, the Indian Railways have reached an important milestone,” said Lalu Prasad, who presented all the previous five rail budgets for the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.

“I can proudly say that Indian Railways scaled a new pinnacle every year and now stand at the zenith of success from where, without imposing any burden on the common man, the railways are set to establish the historic landmark of earning a cash surplus before dividend of more than Rs.90,000 crore (Rs.900 billion) in five years.”

Although the minister continued with his populist measures and introduced some new trains, these were only interim measures, since by convention the regular budget in an election year is left to a new government.

The Indian Railways are the second largest railroad in the world under a single management, running more than 11,000 trains every day, 7,000 of which are for passengers.

The network comprises 108,706 km and ferries 14 million passengers daily from 6,853 stations across the length and breadth of the country. This is the reason why it is the only ministry that has a separate budget.

Lalu Prasad recalled in his budget speech that he had reduced the second class fares of all mail and express trains by 5 percent for tickets costing more than Rs.50 per passenger.

“Respecting the aspirations of the long distance passengers, I have decided this year to reduce the second class and sleeper class fares of all mail, express and ordinary passenger trains by 2 percent for tickets costing more than Rs.50 per passenger.”

He also announced similar reduction in fares for air-conditioned classes.

“Earlier, at the time of the railway budget, people used to be apprehensive about the possible increase in passenger fares; now, on the other hand on the eve of my budget, people appear not only hopeful but sanguine about the likely reduction in passenger fares.”

Lalu Prasad, who recently visited Japan and rode the famous “bullet train”, also said that his ministry was conducting feasibility of running such trains on five sectors and commissioned a study for starting a bullet train on the Delhi-Patna sector.

He also announced four more “Garib Raths” - air-conditioned trains targeted at the economically weaker sections of the society for the poor.

The minister admitted that the current economic slowdown had, indeed, affected freight loading for Railways, especially in October and November, but said there were signs of improvement in the next two months.

“We are not only hopeful but confident that the budget targets for passenger and goods earnings set for this fiscal will be surpassed.”

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