25 th Feb : For the third successive year, the Railway Budget for 2011-12 spared the passengers of any increase in fares and proposed no hike in freight rates while introducing 56 new trains, including nine non-stop Duronto trains and three Shatabdis.
Presenting her third budget in UPA-II in the Lok Sabha, Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee announced a slew of concessions including reducing the eligibility age of senior women citizens from 60 to 58 years and the fare concession for men above 60 from 30 to 40 per cent.
Apparently with an eye on the coming assembly polls in West Bengal, where she is projected as the Chief Minister candidate of Congress-Trinamool combine, she came out with a number of projects for the state, including a metro coach factory in Singur, Rail Industrial Park in Jelligham, an integrated suburban network for Kolkata and 34 new services for the Kolkata metro.
Her announcements for the state evoked protests from members including those from Bihar, UP and Kerala, but she appealed to them to be patient for her other announcements.
The Minister also extended the concession for physically- challenged persons and Kirti and Shaurya Chakra awardees to travel in Rajdhani and Shatabdi trains, besides extending facility of card passes to parents of unmarried posthumous Paramvir Chakra and Ashok Chakra gallantry award winners.
She also proposed to induct 16,000 ex-servicemen in the Railways by March.
The budget proposes the highest-ever plan outlay of Rs 57,630 crore for 2011-12.
The gross budgetary support has been projected at Rs 20,000 crore, diesel cess Rs 1,041 crore, internal resources Rs 14,219 crore and market borrowing at Rs 20,954 crore.
The budget estimates for 2011-12 projects a freight loading of 993 million tonnes and a passenger growth of 6.4 per cent.
Gross traffic receipts has been estimated at Rs 1,06,239 crore, exceeding the Rs one lakh crore mark for the first time, despite pressure on finances on account of Pay Commission payout.
Ordinary working expenses have been assessed at Rs 73,650 crore and appropriation to depreciation reserve fund pegged at Rs 7,000 crore.
Provision of Rs 6,735 crore has been made for dividend payment and the excess for Railways for the new fiscal has been projected at Rs 5,258 crore, with an operating ratio of 98.1 per cent.
On the financial performance for the current year, the budget disclosed that disruption of train movement resulted in a loss of Rs 1,500 crore and Rs 2,000 crore due to the ban on export of iron ore.
Loading target was reduced by 20 million tonnes (MT) to 924 MT.
Gross traffic receipts have been fixed at Rs 94,840 crore, which is higher by Rs 75 crore over budget estimates.
The ordinary working expenses has been fixed at Rs 67,000 crore, an increase of Rs 2,000 crore over BE and the current dividend liability to be fully discharged.
The next year’s budget provides Rs 9,583 crore for new lines. A target of 1,300 kms of new lines, 867 kms of doubling of lines and 1,017 kms of guage conversion has been targeted in the new fiscal.
The new Duronto expresses will run between Allahabad- Mumbai, Pune-Ahmedabad, Sealdah-Puri, Secunderabad- Vishakhapatnam, Madurai-Chennai, Chennai-Thiruvananthapuram, Mumbai Central-New Delhi, Nizamuddin-Ajmer and Shalimar-Patna.
Air-conditioned double-decker services are proposed to be introduced on Jaipur-Delhi and Ahmedabad-Mumbai routes.
The three new Shatabdi services will run between Pune- Secunderabad, Jaipur-Agra and Ludhiana-Delhi.
The Minister announced the introduction on pilot basis of a pan-India, multi-purpose ‘Go India’ smart card, which would be a single-window package for passengers for seamless payment for tickets for long distances, suburban, metro journeys.
The card can be used at booking counters and on internet.
In a bid to provide improved comfort and features and more exclusivity, the Rail budget proposes to introduce a new super AC class of travel.
Provision of internet access on Howrah Rajdhani Express is being introduced as a pilot project.
A new portal for internet booking is being launched shortly and tickets booked through this would be cheaper with a charge of Rs 10 for AC classes and Rs 5 for others.
The Budget provides for upgrading 236 more stations as ‘Adarsh’ (model). 47 additional suburban services in Mumbai and 50 new suburban services have been proposed for Kolkata.
Two new passenger terminals in Kerala and one each in Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal have been proposed.
A feasibility study to raise the speed of passenger trains to 160-200 kms per hour is proposed to be undertaken.
As an incentive to states maintaining normal movement of trains, Banerjee announced a special package of two new trains and two projects.
As a measure of safety, Railways have sanctioned deployment of anti-collision devices in eight zones while fog-safe device will be deployed on the basis of GPS.
All unmanned level crossing up to 3000 in number will be eliminated.
To promote tourism, special trains called ‘Janambhoomi Gaurav’ will be introduced on four routes while 10 ‘Rajya Rani’ Express trains connecting state capitals with important cities in respective states will be introduced.
13 new passenger services, 22 Diesel Electrical Multiple Units (DEMU), 8 Multiple Electrical Units services are to be introduced while the run of 33 trains will be extended and frequency of 17 trains will be increased.
A scheme for socially-desirable projects named ‘Pradhan Mantri Rail Vikas Project’ with non-lapsable fund has been proposed.
10,000 shelter units have been proposed for track side dwellers in Mumbai, Sealdah, Siliguri and Tiruchirapalli on a pilot basis.