Railway Budget 2014: Important Highlights For A Common Rail Traveler
India’s Railway Minister Shri. D.V Sadanand Gowda announced the much awaited Railway Budget for 2014. In our view the budget was a forward looking one that gave importance to factors like growth, technology upgradation, structural reforms, Safety, Cleanliness & Hygiene on Trains. While there were number of things that were announced in the budget, we will touch upon important points that will affect common man traveling on Indian Railways.
1) Rail Fares
Absolutely no increase in any kind Rail passenger or freight fares.
This was a given as increase in Rail fares was already done a few days back. Even with those increased fares, the funds generated by Railways are woefully short for investing in future projects and upgradation of Railways. The good news is Railway minister is looking at generating the required funds through surplus funds available with Railway PSUs , attracting FDI and PPP projects.
2) PSU Surplus, FDI and PPP
Out of 676 rail projects that have been sanctioned till date only about 317 projects have been completed. The ones remaining to be completed require nearly 1.82 Lakh crore rupees, which the minister has proposed to mobilize through disinvestment of Railway PSUs, attracting Foreign Direct Investment and undertaking projects under Public Private Partnership.
Apart from mobilizing funds, the Railway minister also proposed 8 point plan to finish the pending incomplete projects. If these pending projects are complete, it will create huge transformation in the way we travel on Indian Railways.
3) Passenger Amenities
Railway Minister has proposed the following in area of Passenger amenities:
- Foot-over bridges, escalators and lifts at all major stations including through PPP route.
- Battery-operated Carts to facilitate differently-abled and senior citizens to reach any station platform
- Providing workstations in select trains on payment basis. A pilot project will be launched by this year.
- Online booking facility of Railway Retiring Room will be extended to all the stations through the course of the year
- Online booking will be expanded where people can book entire train, coach, berth or a seat.
Food has been one of the major issues for Indian Railways, and here is what Railway minister proposed in that regards:
- Pre-cooked (Ready-to-eat) Meals of reputed brands will be provided in phased manner
- Quality Assurance checks and audit will be carried out by Third Party NABCB certified agencies.
- Passengers can now provide feedback on catering and food provided on trains. If the service is not to set standard, action will be initiated again the vendors.
- Setting up food courts in on all major railway stations in India
- Travelers will be provided the option of ordering regional cuisine while onboard, through emails, SMS and Smart Phones etc.
Cleanliness too remains one of the major issues faced by travelers on Indian Railways. Here is what minister proposed in that regards:
- 40% increase in budget allocation provided to cleanliness activities as compared to previous year.
- Cleaning activities will be outsourced to professional agencies at 50 major stations.
- A separate housekeeping wing will be created that will be responsible for maintaining cleanliness and sanitation at stations
- Use of CCTVs at the stations will be extended to monitor cleanliness of stations.
- Bio-toilets will be increased in sufficient number of trains to mitigate the problem of direct discharge of human waste on the tracks and platform aprons at stations.
- Increase in Mechanized Laundries in order to improve quality of the bedrolls provided in
- Introduction of RO drinking water units at Stations and in trains on experimental basis.
6.) Safety & Security
In respect to safety of passengers on and off trains, the minister proposed:
- Provision of Rs. 1,785 crore for the construction of new Road-under-bridges and Road-over-bridges.
- Introduction of a new system for speedy clearances of such projects.
- Audit of 11563 unmanned crossing has been undertaken and action will be taken to eliminate them.
- The minister has proposed to provide automatic closing of doors before start of train for passenger safety, both in main line and in sub-urban coaches. A pilot project for limited number of trains will be taken up.
- 17000 new RPF constables have been recruited and shall be shortly available for deployment.
- 4000 women RPF constables will be recruited soon as well
- Women RPF constables will be posted to ensure safety of ladies traveling alone
7.) Railway Reservation Systems
Railway minister also proposed to bring in number of upgrades and additional features in Railway reservation system. Here are those:
- E-ticketing system capabilities will be improved to support 7200 tickets per minute as against 2000 tickets per minute currently.
- The new system will allow 1,20,000 simultaneous users at any point in time.
- Pilots will be conducted for Coin Operated Automatic Ticket Vending Machines
- Online booking facility will be extended for buying platform tickets and unreserved tickets
- Parking-cum-Platform Combo Tickets will be launched to facilitate the passengers and to save their time.
8.) New Trains / Bullet Trains etc
- Work on Bullet Train between Mumbai-Ahmedabad sector will start this year.
- Govt is embarking on an ambitious plan to have a Diamond Quadrilateral Network of High Speed Rail, connecting major Metros and growth centers of the country.
- Present infrastructure will be upgraded to increase the speed of trains to 160-200 kmph in select sectors to reduce travel times.
9) Technology Initiatives
The minister has proposed to take following IT and Tech initiatives to improve train services:
- Moving towards paperless offices in Indian Railways in 5 years
- Next Generation Ticket Reservation System
- Wi-fi Services in all A1 and A category stations and in select trains
- Real-time tracking of trains and rolling stock
- Mobile based Wakeup Call System for passengers
- Mobile based Destination Arrival Alert
- Station Navigation Information System
- Extension of Dual Display Fare Repeaters at all the Ticket Counters through PPP
- Digital reservation charts at Stations (Bengaluru model)
- Extension of Computerized Parcel Management System
- Extension of logistics support to various e-commerce
- Companies by providing designated pick-up centres at identified Stations
- Providing education to children of Railway staff at remote locations through Railtel OFC (optical fibre cable) network.
While there were number of other things announced, the list we provided above will directly affect the end consumers who travel on Indian Railways.
The Railway budget is quite ambitious and if the Minister is able to even partially achieve them during his tenure, it surely will change the face of Indian Railways.
What is your view on the Railway Budget, do let us know in comments!