Rail budget assures safety, comfort with no fare hike

NEW DELHI — Train fares remain unchanged. Charges on some services such as tatkal and reservation will be hiked. Freight charges will rise.


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Published: Wed 27 Feb 2013, 11:31 PM

Last updated: Tue 25 Aug 2020, 4:43 PM

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 Rs633.63 billion ($11.5 billion) 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.
“The UPA government is sensitive to the needs of the people and it was after some wide consultations and deliberations that some revision was effected in fares from January 22,” he said of the recent hike in fares, while also proposing automatic revisions in freight tariff based on fluctuations in fuel charges. “As regards passenger fares, since these were revised only in January this year, I do not intend to pass on the additional burden to them now and railways will absorb the impact of Rs8.5 billion ($155 million) on this account,” said Bansal, the first Congress party minister to present a rail budget in 17 years.
But where the passengers will have to shell out more will be in services such as tatkal, which has been hiked from a minimum of Rs75 now to Rs90 for a sleeper class ticket and from Rs200 to Rs300 for an executive class ticket.
This apart, the clerk charges have been hiked by between Rs5 and Rs10 and cancellation charges have been raised by between Rs10 and Rs50. The enhanced reservation fee has been scrapped. The hike in freight works out to around an average of 5.8 per cent.
“It is a reformist and forward looking budget which presents a realistic picture of railway finances,” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said of the budget, even as the opposition called it wanting in a host of areas.

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