Mamata Express likely to spare passengers from fare hike

Last Updated: Tuesday, February 23, 2010 - 13:40

Zeebiz Bureau

New Delhi: Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee, set to present the Railway Budget 2010 Wednesday, is likely to introduce at least a dozen more non-stop Durontos and a security fund without touching the passenger fares, reports said Tuesday.

Agency reports, quoting Rail Bhavan sources, said Banerjee would once again try to reach out to the common man with populist measures though her ministry is under pressure to revise the fares.

The passenger fares have not seen upward revision for the last seven years.

According to a television channel, which claimed to have seen the key proposals of the railway budget, the budget will see freight charge hike for select items like iron ore and cement.

Banerjee is keen not to hike the freight charge for foodgrains as such a move would lead to further increase in the food inflation, the channel reported.

The railway security fund, on top of Banerjee’s agenda, will be used to fund the infrastructure development and plug the security holes in the railway network.
However, raising funds for the Railway’s modernisation and expansion is an uphill task for Banerjee as the Finance Minister, Pranab Mukherjee, has reportedly rejected her demand for a massive allocation for the Railways in the union budget.

According to agency reports, the budget may have something for every section including additional trains and innovative schemes to corner more freight traffic from the road.

Sources said the minister will also lay the foundation for the implementation of the ambitious Railways Vision document for the coming decade.

The document may seek to attain inclusive development, generate large scale employment and ensure environmental sustainability.

The Vision Document 2020 was unveiled by Banerjee in the Winter Session of Parliament last year along with the White Paper.

"Most of the proposals mentioned in the vision document like expansion of rail network, raising train speed and safety measures and commercial utilisation of railway land are expected to find mention in the rail budget," the sources said.

Banerjee might rationalise freight rates and announce innovative schemes to compete with road transport while leaving the loading rates of essential commodities like food grains untouched.

At present more than 70 percent of the freight traffic movement takes place through highways.

Banerjee is also likely to announce expediting project works of upcoming locomotive and coach manufacturing units in states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal and expansion of Kolkata Metro network.

With frequent train accidents becoming a major issue for railways, she is likely to announce enhanced budgetary allocation to address the problem. Some of the safety measures include the implementation of Anti-Collision Device (ACD) and Train Protection Warning System (TPWS) in certain congested routes.

Improving passenger amenities in stations and onboard trains, tightening security measures which include raising a special all-woman force would also find mention in the budget.
The sources said more passenger reservation counters would be announced and Tatkal scheme would be made more passenger-friendly besides launching of a new passenger enquiry number 138.

Opening of more affordable food outlets like Janahar and improving hygienic condition in preparation of food for passengers are also likely to find mention.

The Railway Minister is expected to reach out to the farming community by taking forward the kisan vision scheme and announcing introduction of special trains for transportation of farm produce.

Putting its unused land to best use, the minister is set to lay the grounds to woo more private investment for its commercial utilisation.

Railways had already announced tie-up with Health Ministry and HRD Ministry for setting up medical facilities and Kendriya Vidyalays on rail land.

The budget is also expected to lay emphasis on the dedicated freight corridor as the Vision Document has underlined operationalisation of the corridor before 2020.

The document also mentioned optimum utilisation of railway land bank and setting up multi-modal logistic parks and industrial hubs along the corridor.

Interacting with captains of Indian industry earlier this month, the Railway Minister has laid stress on private participation in expansion of rail network.

The revenue sharing model for private participation in laying new rail tracks is likely to find mention in the budget.

Keeping the wagon shortage in mind, the budget might also contain measures to tackle the problem through a new wagon procurement policy.

With agency inputs



First Published: Tuesday, February 23, 2010 - 13:40

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