The Railway Budget for 2010-11on Wednesday proposed no increase in passenger fares and freight rates while reducing the tariff by Rs. 100 per wagon in transportation of foodgrains, kerosene and fertilisers to tackle the price rise.

The budget, presented by Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee in the Lok Sabha, also proposed to reduce the maximum limit of service charge on e-booking of tickets to Rs. 10 for sleeper class and Rs. 20 for AC class. The present maximum charge is Rs. 15 and Rs. 40 respectively.

This is the seventh year in a row that passenger fares have not been raised.

Announcing a slew of concessions for passengers, Ms. Banerjee proposed free travel for cancer patients going for treatment in three-tier AC and sleeper class and continuance of concessions for students of madrassas and journalists.

The Minister said 101 new suburban services will be introduced in Mumbai and more services will be launched in Kolkata and Chennai.

A special train ‘Sanskriti Express’ to mark the 150th birth anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore will run across the country and also to Bangladesh.

Special tourist trains called ‘Bharat Teerth’ will be started on 16 routes while six long-distance non-stop Duronto Express and four short-distance Duronto day trains will be introduced, the Railway Minister said.

The budget estimates for 2010-11 pegs the freight loading target at 944 million tonnes, an increase of 54 million tonnes over current year’s revised estimates. The passenger traffic is likely to grow by 5.3 per cent.

Referring to hardships faced by people because of the high food prices, Ms. Banerjee said, “I understand their distress.

Despite Railways’ own tight resource position I announce reduction of Rs. 100 per wagon in freight charges for foodgrains for domestic use and kerosene. This is a small gesture to express our concern.”

While ladies special trains would be renamed ‘Matribhoomi Specials’, three unreserved trains named ‘Karambhoomi specials’ would be introduced along with new weekly express service ‘Janmabhoomi Express’ between Ahmedabad and Udhampur.

New services to be introduced include 54 trains, 28 new passenger services, nine MEMU and eight DEMU services. The routes of 21 trains will be extended and the frequency of 12 trains increased.

Other new projects include preliminary engineering-cum-traffic survey for north-south, east-west, east-south and south-south dedicated freight corridors.

Six high-speed passenger train corridors have been identified to be executed through public-private partnership mode and a national high-speed rail authority will be set up for planning, implementing and monitoring these projects.

The financial performance in 2009-10 shows that the loading target of 882 million tonnes is likely to be surpassed by eight million tonnes.

Gross traffic receipts for 2009-10 have been kept at Rs 88,356 crore — an increase of 10.7 per cent. The full impact of sixth pay commission has been fully absorbed within the railway resources and the current dividend liability will be fully discharged. Annual plan has been kept at Rs. 40,284 crore, Ms. Banerjee said.

The budget has provided for the highest-ever plan outlay for 2010-11 at Rs 41,426 crore, an increase of Rs 1,142 crore over 2009-10.

A provision of Rs 4,411 crore has been provided in the plan for new lines while passenger amenities get Rs 1,302 crore and metro projects Rs 1,001 crore.

The plan for next year also provides for acquisition of 18,000 wagons, while additional budgetary support of Rs 3,701 crore has been sought for 11 national projects.

Surveys for 114 socially desirable projects connecting backward areas will be taken up along with 54 surveys for new lines, two for gauge conversions, seven for doubling and five others to be taken up.

Under the new plan, 1021 km of new lines will be completed and nine new line projects would be taken up. Gauge conversion of 800 km and doubling of 700 km has been targeted.

Ms. Banerjee said economic viability and social responsibility will be the main consideration for taking up of projects in which inclusive growth and expansion of rail work will be given priority.

A special task force will be set up to clear proposals for investments within 100 days and a separate structure will be created for implementation of the business models.

The Railway Minister announced that as part of passenger amenities 94 stations will be upgraded as ‘Adarsh’ (model) stations and 10 more stations would be identified for conversion to world class stations.

The budget also contains proposals for multi-level parking and setting up of clean drinking water bottling plants in six places, including in Amethi, through PPP route and SMS updates of reservation status and punctuality of trains to passengers and movement of wagons to freight customers.

Safety and security proposals include introduction of automatic fire and smoke detection system on 20 long distance trains, manning of 13,000 unmanned level crossings and raising of 12 companies of women RPF personnel under ‘Mahila Vahini’

Infrastructure development includes modernisation and augmenting of the capacity of Chittaranjan Loco Works from 200 to 275 locomotives and setting up of a Diesel Multiple Unit factory in Sankrail in West Bengal.

A second unit of the Integral Coach Factory will be set up in Chennai, while a Wagon Repair Shop will be set up in Badnera near Amravati in Maharashtra.

The budget also proposes to set up a new Rail Axle Factory in New Jalpaiguri in PPP mode, centres of excellence in wagon prototyping in Kharagpur Workshop and a Design, Development and Testing Centre in Anara (Adra).

It also proposes setting up of five state-of-the-art wagon factories in Secunderabad, Bardhaman, Bhubaneshwar/Kalahandi, Guwahati and Haldia.

In freight business, a modified wagon investment scheme for high capacity general purpose and special purpose wagons will be introduced. Private operators will be permitted to invest in infrastructure and run special freight trains.

The Railways also propose to set up automobile and ancillary units at 10 locations.

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