Highlights from the Railway Budget

Union Railways Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda presented his maiden Railway Budget in Parliament on Tuesday for 2014-15 amidst much hyped hues and cries about fares hike which was rolled out last months. But Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitly cursed UPA-2 for the fare hike and said, “The move to hike fares was proposed by UPA-2. We had to implement it.”

Gowda has done every possible effort to bring Modi government’s reputation back on track. The new budget does not include any new increase in passenger fares and freight charges.

Railway Budget for 2014-15 proposes to attract private domestic and FDI in infrastructure projects and pursuing private-public partnership to boost the finances of the cash-strapped railways. FDI, however, will be limited to infrastructure development and not allowed in operations, he said.

Disclosing that he needs more than Rs nine lakh crore to completing the Golden Quadrilateral Network and Rs 60,000 crore for introducing one bullet train alone, Gowda told the House, “Can I depend only on hiking fare and freight rates and burden the public to realise these funds? This is unrealistic. I need to explore the alternate means of resource mobilisation.”

He proposed to launch a scheme to bring in investible surplus funds of railway PSUs in infrastructure projects which can generate attractive returns.

He said the concept of PPP has not been successful in raising substantial resources for railways. “It is my endeavour to pursue this in right earnest. It is our target that bulk of our future projects will be financed through PPP model, including the high—speed rail, which requires huge investments.”

The Minister announced Bullet Trains in Mumbai-Ahmedabad sector, Plan to hike speed of trains to 160-200 km/hr in 9 sectors and Diamond quadrilateral for high speed trains.

Diamond quadrilateral Project proposes to connect four major cities of India (Delhi,Mumbai,Kolkata and Chennai) located in four edges of the country. Estimated cost of this Project is to be 9 Lakh Crores.

Keeping in mind the growing number of internet users and glitches on Railway’s Website the Minister announced online booking to support 7,200 tickets per minute, 1.2 lakh users will be able to log in simultaneously and WiFi in A1, A category stations and in selected trains.

Safety in Trains has always been the issue rarely hashed out in Railway Budgets and Railway has decided to induct 4000 women constables to RPF to escort ladies coaches.

Some of the major highlights from the budgets are Battery operated cars for differently-abled and senior citizens at major stations, Feedback services through IVRS on quality of food, Food can be ordered through SMS, phone and Food courts at major stations, CCTVs to be used at stations for monitoring cleanliness, RO drinking water in some stations and trains, Automatic door closing in mainline and sub-urban coaches and Solar energy to be tapped at major stations.

The Railway Budget has proposed a Railway University for Technical and non-technical subjects. There will also be tie-ups with technical institutions.

Gowda has announced 58 new trains. 18 new line surveys, which include rail connectivity to ‘char dham’ — Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri and Yamunotri and Shimoga—Sringeri—Mangalore.

The annual plan for 2014—15 has been fixed at the highest ever outlay of Rs 65,445 crore and Expenditure in 2014-15 pegged at Rs. 149,176 crore.

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