Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal in his budget speech on Tuesday promised a series of safety measures covering not only general passengers and women but also elephants. He has unrolled a number of amenities, including a separate coach with latest facilities.
Mr. Bansal has set aside Rs. 1200 crore for amenities and increased allocation for safety measures by 12.5 per cent for 2013-14 in what he called a path-breaking measure in the history of the railways, which carry about 840 crore people annually and that figure in 2013-14 is expected to go up to 900 crore.
Mr. Bansal intends to put in place a corporate safety plan for the 10-year period of 2014-2024, which includes raising eight more companies of women RPF and reserve 10 per cent vacancies for women personnel alone to ensure proper security for women passengers.
The railways intend to rehabilitate 17 distressed bridges in the current financial year and eliminate 10,797 level crossings in the 12th Plan period and introduce a train protection warning system on automatic signalling systems and trials for developing an anti-collision avoidance system.
Besides putting in place self-propelled accident relief trains, which can pick speeds up to 200 km per hour, emphasis will be on LHB coaches with fire retardant materials, backed by a comprehensive fire and smoke detection systems.
For Uttarakhand, Assam and Orissa, special measures will be initiated to avoid elephant-related accidents on the track passing through forests.
Cleanliness drive will be taken up in 104 important stations through mechanised cleaning systems and pilot projects will be taken up on select trains for passengers to contact on board staff through phone and SMS for coach cleanliness. The setting up of eight to 10 mechanised laundries, establishing 179 escalators and 400 lifts at major stations that will benefit differently-abled people are the other measures proposed.
Braille stickers, wheelchairs
Other passenger friendly initiatives include Braille stickers with layout of coaches, including toilets; provision of wheelchairs and battery-operated vehicles and making coaches wheel-chair accessible.
The railways plan to set up Rail Neer bottling plants in Vijayawada, Nagpur, Lalitpur, Bilaspur, Jaipur and Ahmedabad for better supply of bottled water on trains and stations. Free Wi-Fi facilities will also be provided on several trains.
Executive lounges will be set up at Bilaspur, Patna, Visakhapatnam, Nagpur, Agra, Jaipur and Bengaluru for the benefit of high-end passengers, who can use the facility for a price that includes meal.
To address the problems of people booking their tickets online, the budget promises to put in place by December an e-ticketing system that could deliver 7,200 tickets a minute, against 2,000 as of now and about 1.2 lakh users can log in simultaneously, increasing the capacity from the current 40,000 users.
Mr. Bansal has proposed a special coach named “anubhuti” in select trains for high-end passengers and the facilities would come with a higher component of fare.
He has announced complimentary card passes for recipients of the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna and Dhyan Chand awards for travel in First Class and AC II; for Olympic medallists and Dronacharya awardees in Rajdhanis and Shatabdis.
The railways intend to increase the scope of honouring military and police personnel displaying bravery. Parents of posthumously unmarried awardees of Maha Vir Chakra, Vir Chakra, Kirti Chakra, Shaurya Chakra and President’s Police Medals will be given passes for travel in First Class and AC II.
Those bagging Police Gallantry medals will be given complimentary passes to travel in AC II in Rajdhanis and Shatabdis along with a companion.