Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi on Wednesday proposed the first hike in passenger fares in nine years and the highest ever annual plan outlay for the Railways at Rs 60,100 crore, of which Rs 50,000 crore he said, would be from market borrowing.
Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi on Wednesday proposed the first hike in passenger fares in nine years and the highest ever annual plan outlay for the Railways at Rs 60,100 crore, of which Rs 50,000 crore he said, would be from market borrowings.
“Indian Railways is passing through a difficult phase," Trivedi told Parliament. "If we do not strengthen Indian railways, I'm afraid we weaken our country," he added, in a speech that was peppered with poetry and occasionally interrupted by fellow Parliamentarians' applause as well as boos.
Presenting his first Rail Budget, the minister said he needs to modernize 19000 km of rail tracks that carry the most traffic, besides laying new track, particularly in tribal and underdeveloped regions of the country need to be connected.
The bill for this is expected to be about Rs 6,467 crore.
Mr Trivedi also proposed bringing down the operating ratio from 95% currently to 84.9% in 2012-13. Operating ratio is the amount of money spent for every rupee earned and it has been rising to alarming levels.
In a candid statement, the minister said he was “not satisfied with the safety standards in India”. To rectify this, he added, safety standards should be benchmarked to those in Europe and Japan.
Both those regions have large railway networks that run superfast trains.
The minister also proposed to set up an independent Railway Safety Authority as a statutory body. As par of the focus on safety, he said that all unmanned level crossings will be removed in the next five years, pointing out that were responsible for a large number of accidents.
On the flip side, experts said the Budget should have given more importance to implement the public-private-partnership (PPP) module in a structured manner. The Railway Budget should have focused on improving finances, they noted.
Noting the condition of stations, the Railway Minister said some stations would be remodeled along the same pattern as airports. This will be done under the supervision of the newly set up Indian Railway Station Development Corporation.