Interim Rail Budget – Good or Bad

Railway Minister Mallikarjun Kharge presented the Interim Railway Budget for 2014-15. Success of the Ministry in its National Project of Kashmir was highlighted in the achievement. It consists of expressly designed coaches to bear the adverse weather of the state. Railway has also been credited with the development of corrosion resistant and lighter wagons. But despite all this it is likely that the budget will not help in solving the financial condition of the Railways. At present expenditure of Indian Railways is more than its earning as number of passengers travelling via trains is decreasing whereas fuel bills are increasing.

The Budget presented no increase in the freight charges and passenger fares. Though it was expected that basic passenger fare would see some reduction but due to revenue shortfall it did not happen. Furthermore it has been made clear that the implementation of fuel adjustment component (FAC) in April would not result in little fare hike. Some adjustments in FAC have been made to reduce its impact on fare.  So a common man won’t see a steep hike in fare.

The Interim Budget has definitely announced some valuable additions to railway in terms of new trains, enhanced facilities and amenities to passengers and new lines. As per the Railway Ministry the Interim Budget is growth-oriented.

Coming years will see 17 new premium trains, 38 express trains and 10 passenger trains. Step to increase premium trains is based on the victory of premium AC-special train running on Delhi-Mumbai routes. Also there will be a passenger train to Katra and Vaishnodevi. Important information such as arrival time and next station will be displayed in trains. Indian railway will also see some of the high speed trains, such as Mumbai-Ahmedabad Corridor.

Currently road transportation is generally used to carry goods from one place to another. Lack of good roads and infrastructure add to the cost of the final product. In Interim Railway Budget it has been stated that steps will be taken to encourage the transportation of milk in trains. It is expected that in the full budget more attention will be paid towards train transportation. But it needs a very efficient freight system. If used effectively then it can be a very profitable and a good move.

It has also been stated that many measures have been taken to prevent fire incidents in trains. But in spite of using fire retardant material, portable fire extinguishers in coaches, use of induction based cook tops rather than LPG ones and checks against inflammable material and explosives fire incidents are happening in trains. It is because all the trains are not equipped with such systems and the number is far less than said.

Public Private Partnerships (PPP) is encouraged for funding and many of such projects are in pipeline. But it must be noticed that major PPP projects highlighted in Railway Budget 2013-14 had not been materialized yet. The Maharashtra government objected the design of the Rs 21,000-crore Oval Maidan-Virar Rail Corridor project. Railway has yet to attract investors for major PPP projects such as in station modernization.

Definitely e-booking ticket service received an overwhelming response from the public. Now there is no need to stand in long queue for booking tickets.

Budget highlighted some eco friendly initiatives to be taken like ‘Green Curtains’. It is to be implemented along major stations like Jaipur and Agra. There will be more bio-toilets in rail coaches.

Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya to be brought in railway map. At last some development in East India. But commencement and completion of any project on time is always an issue.

The Interim Railway Budget has expressed nothing on FDI in railway which definitely created disappointment.
Running trains on diesel is bit expensive than electricity. The Interim Railway Budget has focused on the electrification of more routes. In the next fiscal year 1500 km route would be taken up for electrification. Out of 65,000 km route only 24,000 km has been electrified yet.

Railway Ministry is also concerned towards the safety of passengers and that is why new measures to ensure safe travelling have been taken up. Out of 5400 unmanned level crossings, 2310 have been reduced by manning. Train Collision Avoidance System has successfully undergone field trials and now it is likely to be implemented. Road users will get audio-visual warming to increase the safety. All electric and diesel locomotives will get provision for Vigilance Control Device.

For the success, all the pending projects must be taken up seriously and work must be done to complete these. Lack of funds is the major hurdle for the completion of projects. Work must be done to improve the investment inflow and financial condition of railway.

Related Links:

Railway Budget 2015-16 Highlights