Presenting the first Railway Budget of the Narendra Modi government, Railway Minister Sadananda Gowda outlined different measures for improving passenger amenities and also proposed a roadmap for introduction of bullet trains in the country.
Key Takeaways of Rail Budget 2014
- Bullet trains: The Railway Minister proposed introduction of bullet trains between Mumbai and Ahmedabad. He also proposed setting up of Diamond Quadrilateral Network of high-speed trains connecting major metros and growth centers. (Read here)
- High-speed trains: Railways plans to increase speed of trains to 160-200 km per hour in nine select sectors: Delhi-Agra, Delhi-Chandigarh, Nagpur-Bilaspur, Goa-Mumbai, Chennai-Hyderabad, Delhi-Kanpur, Delhi-Pathankot, Mysore-Bangalore-Chennai, and Nagpur-Secundrabad.
- FDI in Railways: To mobilise resources for infrastructure upgradation and high-speed trains, the minister said it would seek Cabinet approval for foreign direct investment (FDI) in building rail infrastructure. He however said FDI would not be allowed in railway operations. (Read here)
- Periodic hike in rail fares: Though Mr Gowda did not announce any fare hikes, he said periodic revision in passenger fare and freight rates will be linked to revisions in fuel prices in order to insulate the Railway revenues from fuel cost escalation. In his post-budget briefing, Mr Gowda said the Railways would continue with the Fuel Adjustment Costs (FAC) formula under which there will be periodic hike in fares and freight rates once in six months, if there is a hike in fuel cost.
- Wi-Fi in select trains and stations: To improve passenger convenience, the Railways will provide Wi-Fi services in A1 and A category stations and in select trains. Besides that platform and unreserved tickets can also be bought through internet.
- Improvement in e-ticketing services: Railway e-ticketing services will be improved to support 7,200 tickets per minute and allow 1.2 lakh simultaneous users.
- Better cleanliness: To improve cleanliness measures, the minister provided a 40 per cent higher allocation and proposed outsourcing of cleanliness services at 50 major stations. He also said onboard housekeeping would be extended to more trains and CCTVs would be utilized to monitor stations' cleanliness.
- Pre-cooked food: The Railways will introduce pre-cooked and "ready-to-eat meals of reputed brands" on trains across the country. In addition to providing filtered (RO) drinking water on trains and at stations, the minister vowed strict action, including the cancellation of contracts, for any vendors who are found supplying unhygienic food to passengers.(Read here)
- New trains: Railways proposes to introduce 58 new trains including five Jansadharan trains, five premium Trains, six AC express trains, and 27 express trains. (See list of trains)
- Dedicated freight corridor projects: For eastern (Ludhiana, Punjab, to Dankuni, West Bengal) and western (Mumbai-Delhi) dedicated freight corridor projects, the Railways will target awarding of construction contracts for nearly 1,000 km this year. (With Agency Inputs)