12 February 2014

Interim Railway Budget 2014-15: No hike in passenger fares and freight rates

Feb 12
Introduction of 17 new Premium trains, 38 Express trains, 10 passenger trains and more initiatives to ensure safety to eliminate loss of lives and property, are some of the major highlights of the Interim Rail Budget for 2014-15, presented to Parliament today. Passenger fares and freight have been left untouched.

Four Mainline Electric Multiple Unit (MEMU) and three Diesel Electric Multiple Unit (DEMU) trains will also be introduced. Three trains will be extended and the frequency of three more trains will be increased. Railway Minister Mallikarjun Kharge made the announcements while presenting Railway Budget in the Lok Sabha.

The Railway Minister said, the implementation of the Eastern and Western Dedicated Freight Corridors project is making good progress with the award of nearly one thousand one hundred kilometers of civil construction contracts till now. During 2014-15, another one thousand kilometers of civil construction contracts are targeted.

On High Speed Trains Project, the Minister said, a Joint Feasibility Study for Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Corridor, which started in December 2013, will be completed in 18 months. He said a Business Development Study being undertaken by French Railways will be completed by April 2014.

Mr. Kharge said, besides high-speed project, the Railways also intend to explore low-cost options for raising speeds to 160 to 200 kilometers per hour on existing select routes like Delhi-Agra and Delhi-Chandigarh.

On ensuring cleanliness in the coaches and on railway tracks, the Minister said, a bio-toilet design, adopted by the railways has been introduced in about 2,500 coaches and it is proposed to increase its coverage progressively.

Referring to Passenger Friendly initiatives, the Railway Minister said, passenger escalators are being installed at 61 railway stations. He said, air-conditioned EMU services would commence in Mumbai area by July this year.

To facilitate utilization of vacant accommodation in the higher classes and optimise demand satisfaction in the lower classes, the Passenger Upgradation Scheme is proposed to be extended to second class sitting, AC Chair Car and Executive Chair Car categories.

Mr Kharge said, his Ministry is considering expanding on a larger scale the operation of Premium Air-Conditioned Special Service based on dynamic pricing.

The service was introduced on the busy Delhi-Mumbai sector with shorter advance reservation period in December 2013 and January 2014. The fare included a dynamically varying premium over tatkal fare of the Rajdhani services.

He said, the Independent Rail Tariff Authority, which is being set up to advise the government on fixing fares and freight, will not only consider the requirements of the railways but also engage with all stakeholders to start a new pricing regime through a transparent process.

The Ministry proposes proliferation of cash accepting Automatic Ticket Vending Machines, ticketing on mobile phones in the unreserved segment, update of PNR status through system generated SMS. The other initiatives include the update for train running information, on-line booking of retiring rooms at all major stations and on-line booking of food on trains for selected en-route stations.

Mr Kharge said, as the UPA-2 government completes its term in May this year, it is time to take stock of the achievements of the Indian Railways and also lay the road map for the organization.

He said the initiatives taken by the government during the period have helped build-up confidence of the people and instill a sense of pride among the railway work force.
As soon as the Minister rose to present his speech, members from Seemandhra region trooped into the well, protesting against the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh. Amidst noisy scenes, Mr. Kharge tabled the budget speech after reading few lines from the opening and last paragraphs before commending it to the House.

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