Talks are doing rounds that a ‘major makeover’ is expected from the upcoming Railway Budget on 8 July. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has already sounded the clarion by hinting at possible privatization of the sector. All eyes are now on Railways Minister Sadananda Gowda as he gets his act together to present his maiden rail budget in the Parliament. While there was widespread protest over train fare and freight hike, some consider it as the apt move towards reducing the burden of subsidy. With phrases such as “tough measures” and “in the interest of the nation” becoming louder with each passing day, it’s an opportune moment to identify some of the expectations that the common man has from the Railway Budget:
High-Speed Train: Ever since people got a hint that the rail budget will invite FDI in railways, it has rekindled their hope for high-speed traveling. There’s a possibility that the minister would allocate Rs. 300 crore for introducing trains that can travel at a speed of over 300 kmph on dedicated corridors. The fund could also be used for running trains at 130-150 kmph on existing tracks. We expect to see Narendra Modi’s dream of “diamond quadrilateral of high speed trains” coming true.
Reduction of Fuel Costs: The ministry is likely to propose a slew of measures to cut fuel costs with a focus shifting to solar energy. The coming budget is expected to mention the required investment for installing panels on rooftops of platforms and other lands to tap solar energy. In fact, the railway minister is likely to introduce the usage of liquefied natural gas and ethanol-blended diesel in locomotives as yet another step towards ensuring plummeting fuel cost.
Strengthening Safety and Security Mechanism: A greater degree of passenger safety will get priority this time. To avert cases of derailments and collisions, the ministry is likely to invest in repairing the outdated and broken rail network in the Budget this time. Safety measures such as improving the signaling system, installing anti-collision devices and train protection warning system will be duly stressed upon by the railway minister in his maiden budget. Railway Ministry might also propose installation of X-ray equipment along the tracks to detect damaged parts in trains. Elimination of unmanned level crossings, procurement of modern devices to tackle foggy weather, and establishment of a new academy for training of RPF personnel might also find a mention in this year’s rail budget.
Increased Private Sector Role: In one of his latest speeches, Modi has blurted out his long-term plans for Indian Railways. Providing better facilities in railway stations than airports is one of the goals he has set for the railway ministry. When he said, “You will see a change in near future,” he definitely meant moving ahead. As per Modi’s public statements, the ministry is likely to embrace “private parties”, who would invest in railway projects which will be mutually beneficial. To rescue the world’s largest rail network from financial crisis, the offerings in 2014 rail budget are to be tailored judiciously. Moreover, it should also lay emphasis on the cleanliness of platforms and reduce the downtime of IRCTC website so that speedy booking of tickets doesn’t remain difficult.
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