The much awaited Rail Budget has been announced by Railway Minister D. V. Sadanand Gowda in the Parliament. Government has taken a vow to provide better facilities and to make Indian railways one of the best and comfortable in the world. In the budget the passengers have been spared from further fare hike as it had already been announced. Fare as well as freight charges had undergone a massive hike in June 14 before the budget. With this pre budget hike railways is expected to earn Rs 8000 crore as additional revenue.
In Rail Budget 2014-15, the government has introduced 58 new trains and proposed a plan to develop 10 world-class railway stations and bullet train between Mumbai and Ahmedabad. All major metros will be connected via high-speed rails in a Diamond Quadrilateral project.
Currently the northeastern part of India is not easy to reach. In Railway Budget 2014-15 proposal to increase the connectivity of the north-east with the rest of India has been made. To complete the 23 ongoing projects including 11 National projects, ministry has allocated Rs 5,116 crore to north-east states which is 54% higher than the funds allocated in the previous year.
All major stations will have battery-operated carts service for differently-abled and senior citizens.
Food courts will be set up at all major station. Big brands will serve ready-to-eat meals in trains. For delivering unhygienic food severe action will be taken against vendor and it may include the cancellation of contracts. Provision to order food through sms/phone will be given to passengers.
To stop the direct discharge of human waste on the tracks and platforms trains will be equipped with bio-toilets.
Specialist cleaning agencies will be given the responsibility of cleaning 50 stations. Cleanliness activities will be monitored through CCTV cameras. The budget also proposed the introduction of mechanised laundry.
For the safety of lady passengers RPF women constables will be deployed in Lady coaches. For this, four thousand RPF women constables will be recruited.
At present the e-ticketing system supports booking of 2,000 tickets in one minute. This will be increased to 7,200 tickets per minute.
Railways will start using bio-diesel and solar energy. Rooftop spaces at the railway stations and railway building will be utilised for installing solar energy projects.
Railway Minister has also stated the need for private investments and thus requested the cabinet to permit Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Railways. But no detail of how the government would attract investors has been provided in the budget.
Railway in India is not a profitable unit. Earning from all its functions is huge but not enough to start new projects, new trains, and services. To finish the projects planned in the previous years, excluding the one announced in the budget, the railways requires Rs 5 lakh crore per year for the next 10 years. Though the railway revenue is more than its cost at present but the surplus amount is declining. Main focus of the previous government was to sanction projects rather than their completion. For the last 30 years near about 676 projects worth Rs 1,57,883 crore had been sanctioned. Out of these just 317 projects were completed and the rest 359 projects are still there to be completed. Rs 1,82,000 crore is needed to complete these pending projects.
Railway is used for transporting passengers as well as goods. Transporting goods is known as freight. For the past few years passenger fares have not been increased much but freight charges have been hiked. Due to this, decline in the freight traffic through railway has been noticed. Railway now carries just 31% of the total freight carried across India. Because of this, earning from freight decreased and it was Rs 94 crore less than the target amount in the budget whereas revenue from traffic fell short by Rs 942 crore. Total expenses exceeded the target amount in budget by Rs 511 crore.
Indian Railway is the fourth largest in the world but low investment and no new addition has transformed it into a slow and unprofitable unit. The Railway Budget 2014-15 contains the highest ever plan outlay that includes Rs 65,445 crore. But it lacks the explanation of how the said goals will be met. After Gowda’s speech a decline in stocks has also been noticed.
But in case the funds allocated are used appropriately then we will be able to see a complete changed, modern and hi-tech Indian Railway.