The Railway Budget 2013-14 presented by the Railway Minister Shri Pawan Kumar Bansal in the Parliament lays thrust on safety, consolidation, improving passenger amenities and fiscal discipline.
The budget has absorbed the increase in passenger tariff due to increase in diesel prices but has proposed minor increase in supplementary charges for super fast trains and Tatkal charges etc. It has proposed FAC-linked revision in freight tariff only.
The Budget has proposed working expenses of Rs. 96,500 crore against the Gross Traffic Receipts of Rs. 1,43,742 crore for the year. The Railway Minister has proposed that appropriation to the Pension Fund of Railway Employees to Rs. 22,000 crore while appropriation to Depreciation Reserve Fund to Rs. 7,500 crore. With these proposals Railways expected to close the year 2013-14 with a balance of Rs. 12,506 crore in the Railway Fund.
Shri Pawan Kumar Bansal has proposed highest ever plan outlay of Rs. 63,363 crore for 2013-14 which will be financed through Gross Budgetary Support of Rs. 26,000 crore and internal resources of 14,260 crore. Market borrowing of Rs.15,103 crore, Railways share in Road Safety Fund of Rs.2000 and Rs.6000 crore will also be mobilized through PPP mode to finance operations of Railways during the year.
Due to the financial discipline railways has been able to fully repay its loan of Rs. 3,000 crore and its operating ratio during the 2013-14 is expected to increase to 87.8% as compared to 88.8% in 2011-12.
The budget has proposed number of measures to improve passenger amenities including IT enable services for reservations and new trains.
The Minister informed that the Indian Railways is set to achieve the milestone of entering the select club of railways with over 1 million ton freight loading. At present, only the Chinese, Russian and the US Railways have this distinction. The Indian Railways have joined another select club of railways which run freight trains of more than 10,000 tones load.
Speaking on fares Shri Bansal said that Railways will absorb the impact of additional burden due to increase in the rates of HSD oil of about Rs. 850 crore but announced marginal increase in supplementary charge for superfast trains, reservation fees, cancellation charges and tatkal charges as the charges have not been revised for last several years. However, he proposed to abolish the concept of enhanced reservation fee with a view to simplify the fee structure. Regarding freight tariff, he proposed to implement FAC-linked revision. He also announced that a proposal regarding the setting up of an independent Rail Tariff Authority has been formulated.
Stating that safety is a necessary mandate for running trains, the Railway Minister said that recommendations of Kakodkar and Sam Pitroda Committee for improving safety are under active consideration of his Ministry. Railway will soon prepare a Corporate Safety Plan for ten years, 2014-2024, with a view to provide long term perspective and focused attention to safety. About 10797 level crossings will be eliminated during 12th Plan, Train Protection Warning System on Automatic Signal System will be introduced and provision of comprehensive fire and smoke detection systems will be introduced in trains. Regarding the safety of women passengers he said, four companies of women RPF have been set up and another eight will be set up soon, and in recruitment of RPF 10% vacancies will be reserved for women.
Reiterating Government’s commitment to bring about a marked change in the level of passenger amenities, the Minister said that 104 important stations will be identified for immediate attention to all aspects related to cleanliness. Progressive extension of bio-toilets on trains will be taken up and an ‘Anubhuti’ coach in select trains will be arranged to provide excellent ambience and latest facilities and services. In order to ensure quality food for passengers the Minister also proposed third party audit system for food testing and setting up of ISO certified state-of-art kitchens.
The Railway Minister proposed to introduce Wi-Fi facilities on several trains to cater to increasing aspirations and requirement of youth and other passengers. Another 60 stations will be upgraded as Adarsh Stations and voluntary organizations will be involved for providing first aid services at railway stations during the year.
To make railway services people-sensitive and more efficient, the Railway Minister said that several IT initiatives will be introduced in near future which include extension of internet ticketing from 0030 hours to 2330 hours, e-ticketing through mobile phones, SMS alerts to passengers providing updates on reservation status and Next-Generation e-ticketing system will be rolled out which will be capable of handling 7200 tickets per minute against 2000 now.
Announcing the new railway projects to be taken up during 2013-14 the Railway Minister announced introduction of 67 new express trains, 26 new passengers services and extension of 57 trains besides increase in frequency of 24 trains. For the first time an AC EMU rake will be introduced on Mumbai suburban network and rake length will be increased from 9 cars to 12 cars in 80 services in Kolkata and 30 services in Chennai. The Minister proposed a target to complete 500 km of new lines and to convert 450 km lines to broad gauge during 2013-14. He also proposed new lines from Rama Mandi to Maur Mandi via Talwandi Sabo and issuing ‘Yatra Parchis’ for Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine at the time of Railway ticket booking to facilitate pilgrims.
As a token of Railway’s contribution for promotion of sports in the country, the Railway Minister proposed that all the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna and Dhyan Chand Awardees will be provided Complimentary Passes for traveling by 1st Class/2nd AC. Complimentary Passes will be provided to Olympic Medalists and Dronacharya Awardees for travel in Rajdhani/Shatabadi Express. Passes for freedom fighters will now be renewed once in three years instead of every year.
Announcing staff welfare measures, the Railway Minister enhanced fund allocation for staff quarters to Rs. 300 crore and setting up of hostels for single women railway employees at all divisional headquarters. He said that this year 1.52 lakh vacancies will be filled up, out of which 47000 will be for weaker sections and the physically challenged. A multi-disciplinary training institute will set up at Nagpur for training in rail related electronics technologies.