Focus on improving consumer experience
February 25, 2016: The Narendra Modi-led NDA government on Thursday announced the railway budget. Suresh Prabhu, Union Railway Minister, while keeping the freight fares unchanged, announced four special trains — Tejas (with onboard entertainment and other world-class service), Uday (double-decker trains on busiest routes), Antyodaya Express (long distance train for unreserved passengers) and Hamsafar Express (full 3rd AC train).
“Comfort of passengers is of primary importance to me. Hopefully these new trains will benefit people of this country,” said Prabhu in his speech.
This year the theme of the budget was ‘Overcoming challenges – Reorganise, Restructure Rejuvenate Indian Railways: ‘Chalo, Milkar Kuch Naya Karen’. To achieve this, the ministry will adopt three pillars of strategy — Nav Arjan (new revenue), Nav Manak (New Norms) and Nav Sanrachna (New Structures).
The minister announced that action has been initiated on 139 budget announcements of 2015-16. He said better connectivity to North East is a priority.
Last year funding through LIC assured that new projects did not face money crunch. Prabhu announced that almost all contracts for civil engineering works will be awarded by March this year. “We have awarded Rs 24,000 crore contracts since November 2014 as against Rs 13,000 crore contracts awarded in last six years.”
As part of ‘Make in India’ campaign, bids for two locomotive factories have been finalised. “Two factories will be set up at cost of Rs 40,000 crore each. This will also help in pushing up employment numbers,” he said. In order to improve consumer experience, the government will also spend Rs 8.5 lakh crores on modernisation of the railways over the next five years.
Prabhu said he wants to increase e-ticketing speed from 2,000 tickets a minute to 7,200 a minute, and announced that as many as 1,780 automatic ticket vending machines will be installed.
As part of other social initiatives, the minister increased quota of lower berths for senior citizens and women. Wi-fi has been provided in 100 stations and the same will be increased to 400 more this year. “There are stations that are being redeveloped under PPP,” he said.
Prabhu said plans are on to introduce time tabled freight trains by 2020. Some of the other announcements made by the minister in his speech are listed below.
Cleanliness — ‘Clean my Coach’ service to be introduced through SMS. Under this passengers can ask get their coach cleaned. Around 17000 bio-toilets will be provided before close of the current financial year and 30,000 more in the current year. Dustbins will soon be provided in all AC coaches
- Travel Insurance to passengers — This will offer optional travel insurance for rail journeys at the time of booking. Hourly booking of retiring rooms – will be handed over to IRCTC
- Janani sewa — In order to make train journey friendly for mothers, baby food, milk and hot water for kids will be made available.
- Pilgrimage centres — To take up beautification on stations at pilgrimage centres including Ajmer, Amritsar, Bihar, Dwarka, Gaya, Haridwar, Mathura, Nagapattinam, Nanded, Nasik, Pali, Parasnath, Puri, Tirupati, Vailankanni, Varanasi and Vasco.
- Porters — They will be provided new uniforms and training will be given to them in soft skills. They will be called ‘Sahayaks”.
- High Speed Rail — Passenger corridor from Ahmedabad to Mumbai being undertaken with the assistance of the Government of Japan