Focus on rail safety; plan for 113 new trains, more suburban services
Increasing the fare for the first time in eight years, the Railway budget for 2012-13 also envisages 113 new trains and promises to focus on safety, for which the Railway Board will be restructured and a separate authority set up.
The budget, presented by Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi, proposes a steep increase in passenger fares to help the Railways earn an additional Rs.7,000 crore during 2012-13. The lowest fare of Rs. 2 for travel up to 10 km in a non-suburban train has been raised to Rs. 5.
The Railways have planned to increase fares in kilometre terms, starting with 2 paise for the lower classes and increasing it gradually to 30 paise for air-conditioned first class. The general increase is up to 30 per cent in the sleeper classes and air-conditioned classes. Thus, for example, the Delhi-Chennai sleeper class fare will go up from Rs. 488 to Rs. 600, a hike of 23 per cent, and Thiruvananthapuram to Delhi in AC two-tier will rise from Rs. 2,181 to Rs. 2,650, a hike of 21 per cent.
The budget promises to increase the strength of the Railway Board by taking in two more members — one for safety and the other for public-private participation and marketing.
A Railway Safety Authority will be set up as a statutory regulatory body. The conditions of track, bridges and signalling and telecommunication systems will also be improved. To avoid accidents at unmanned level crossings, a rail-road grade separation corporation will be put in place.
Mr. Trivedi proposes to recruit at least one lakh persons in the next financial year, clearing the backlog of SC/ST/OBC vacancies and those in other categories, while filling all slots to ensure the safe running of trains and the safety of passengers.
Safety measures, green initiatives
Among the other safety measures announced by Mr. Trivedi in his budget are increasing the number of trains to be escorted by RPF/GRP personnel to 3,500 and integration of the RPF helpline with the All-India Passenger Helpline.
As part of the Railways' green initiative, 2,500 coaches will be equipped with bio-toilets, 200 remote stations will be powered by solar energy, solar-lighting systems will be installed at 1,000 manned level crossing gates, and two bio-diesel plants will be commissioned at Raipur and Tondiarpet.
The passenger amenities proposed include 321 escalators, of which 50 will be installed in 2012-13, six mechanised laundries, new Rail Neer plants at Palur in Tamil Nadu and Ambernath in Maharashtra, an alternative train accommodation system for wait-listed passengers and specially designed coaches for differently-abled persons in all mail and express trains.
Patients suffering from Aplastic Anaemia and Sickle Cell Anaemia will be given 50 per cent concession in fare in AC 2, AC 3 and Chair Car and Sleeper classes. The Arjuna awardees will get the facility of travelling by the Rajdhani and Shatabdi trains.
Despite the poor state of the system and the Railways' inability to fulfil the promises made in 2011-12, the budget proposes 75 new express trains, 21 passenger trains, nine DEMU and eight MEMU, besides extension in the service of 39 trains and increase in the frequency of 23.
Mumbai will have 75 additional suburban services, Chennai 18, Kolkata 44, and Kolkata Metro 60.
For resource mobilisation and modernisation, two corporations will be opened: the Indian Railway Station Development Corporation and the Logistics Corporation.
Schemes for private investment in wagon-leasing, siding, private freight terminals, container train operations and rail connectivity projects will be made more attractive to investors. To facilitate this, the Railway Board will have a new member.
A National High Speed Rail Authority will be set up to run high-speed trains in future. A pre-feasibility study will be done for the Delhi-Jaipur-Ajmer-Jodhpur corridor, in addition to the six corridors proposed. As for connectivity to neighbouring countries, the project to connect Agartala with Akhaura in Bangladesh will be taken up in 2012-13.
Mr. Trivedi announced the setting up a wagon factory at Sitapali in Odisha's Ganjam district, while two coach factories will be established at Kutch in Gujarat and Kolar in Karnataka. A plant for making traction alternators for high- horse power diesel locomotives will be set up at Vidisha, Madhya Pradesh.
Two projects have been proposed for West Bengal to make next-generation propulsion systems for use in high-power electric locomotives at Shyamnagar, and augmenting the electric loco ancillaries unit of the Chittaranjan Locomotive Works at Dankuni for fabrication of locomotive shells and assembly of three- phase locomotives for manufacture of 9000-HP locomotives.
A survey and feasibility study will be done for new coach terminals at Nemam, Kottayam, Mau and Dankuni, for the development of the Royapuram station in Chennai, a new coach complex at Panvel and coach maintenance complexes at Khlamboli in Maharashtra and at Naihati, birth place of Rishi Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, in West Bengal.