Through the Union Railway budget on Thursday, the Narendra Modi government has sought to send out the signal that it would tread slower on bullet trains in favour of more practical but fast trains that would cost less and could run on existing tracks.
Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu’s maiden budget that did not announce any passenger fare hike or any new train appeared to be rooted in the same sentiment: augmenting and improving existing facilities rather than new promises.
In his budget speech, Mr Prabhu quoted Mr Modi as saying the railways will be an instrument of eliminating poverty. He also spoke of increasing employment opportunities through the railways. Even though the budget did not pass on the benefit of reduced diesel prices to consumers in terms of reduced fares, the minister stressed that the Railways would continue to “serve the common man”.
“Railway Budget 2015 is a forward looking, futuristic and passenger-centric budget, combining a clear vision and a definite plan to achieve it. This is a watershed moment for Railways, marking a paradigm shift from discussing coaches and trains to comprehensive railway reform,” Mr Modi said. “I am particularly delighted that for the first time, there is a concrete vision for technology upgradation and modernisation of the Railways. The Railway Budget lays out a clear roadmap to make the Railways the key driver of India`s economic growth, playing a key role in India`s progress. Railway Budget 2015 stands out for its focus on the common man, putting speed, scale, service and safety, all on one track,” the Prime Minister said.
A senior party leader said that the budget aimed at “ending populism in favour of putting the railways back on track. It is easier to announce trains and never launch them. Instead, the budget promises better service to consumers that is rightfully theirs.”
“By increasing investments to improve infrastructure and passenger amenities, the rail budget has pushed the Railways back on the right track,” Home Minister Rajnath Singh said while congratulating Mr Prabhu for what he described as a ‘growth-oriented budget’.