NEW DELHI: Train fares remain unchanged. Charges on some services such as tatkal and reservation will be hiked. Freight charges will rise. The extant, unreliable e-reservation system will be replaced. As many as 106 new trains will be introduced. A swanky coach will be added on select trains. And all key stations will have escalators.
These are some high points of railway minister Pawan Kumar Bansal’s Rs.63,363 crore maiden annual budget for his ministry tabled in the lower house of Parliament on Tuesday that borders on populism with a fair dose of measures on fiscal discipline, safety and travel comfort.
The other highlights include seven more executive lounges at key stations, elimination of unmanned level crossings, sprucing up the Railway Protection Force for the safety of passengers especially women, deployment of a new anti-collision system, free wi-fi in select trains and modern kitchens with strict quality control.
“The growth of Indian Railways is inextricably linked with the growth of the country,” Bansal said in his 80-minute budget speech — the last such annual exercise for the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government before the next general election scheduled in 2014.
“Indian Railways must remain financially sustainable so that resources generated can be ploughed back for efficient upkeep, operation and maintenance of the system itself for the benefit of the rail users,” he said, setting the tone for frequent adjustments in train fares and freight tariff.