Highlights of Rail Budget 2015-16

The 2015 Railway budget was finally presented by the Union Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu. There were a lot of talking points about the budget, the major one being no hike in tariffs. In his speech, the Union Railways Minister talked about the pivotal areas for the Indian Railways to become the prime contributor to the economy again.

The Modi government had promised for a transformational budget earlier, and thus the people and other analysts had high expectations from it. For a period of 10 before 2012-2013, no fares were increased in railways. When the government did try to hike them, it was met with strong agitation among the public and eventually had to take it back.

The Railways will be working according to this budget till the next year so let’s get down to all the talking points about the budget:-

  • High Level of Service: – The next year is going to be crucial for the Railways and it will work according to today’s budget. The two things like customer experience and safer travel will receive a huge boost to enhance the Rail experience. An all India helpline number 138 will be launched from 1/3/15 along with a toll-free number: 182 for complaints. The minister further revealed that a mobile application is being developed to address the complaints and inquiries of the common people.
  • Rail Fares: It was declared in the budget that there will be no increase in the rail fares till the next budget. This is an important step as it has not been increased for some time now.
  • Private Sector in Railways: – The Indian Railways will team up with the private sector companies, PSUs and multilateral funding institutions for better funding and operations.
  • Better Ticketing Procedure: – With the announcement of Operation 5 minutes, the passengers travelling without reservation will now be able to purchase tickets in 5 minutes. Online ticketing will also get easier and smoother. The ticket holders will receive SMS alerts about the upgraded arrival & departure timings.
  • Announcement of Railway University During the Period: – The minister has announced the introduction of University about Railways and 3 Research Centres for better level of trains in the country.
  • No New Trains: – For the next year, no new trains will be added to the Railways. However, the rail connectivity for North Eastern State and J&K will receive a major boost. There will be more general class coaches added to select identified trains and more AC EMU services for Mumbai suburban section.
  • Revamping Safety Features: – Mr. Suresh Parbhu rightly said that loss of human life is too heavy a price to pay. The Railways has taken accidents seriously and introduced new technologies and options to reduce them as much as possible. Audio Visual Warning systems will be developed in association with ISRO for unmanned crossings. Planning of more and more over bridges and underpasses for reducing the number of levelled crossing is in the pipeline. There will be Surveillance cameras on select mainline and ladies compartments along with the modern facilities for disabled citizens and patients by IRCTC.
  • Search for Better Solutions: – For the first time, the Railways will be taking the public ideas and opinions into consideration. There will be joint ventures with companies; the government will launch a technology portal to invite innovative solutions. A few routes have been identified where the Railways will install Train Protection Warning System and Train Collision Avoidance System for maximum safety.
  • Skill Development and Revenue Generation: – Railways will encourage skill development and self-employment on the basis of Konkani Rly model. The Railways will adopt bidding system for redevelopment of stations. They plan to generate revenue by increasing fare for freight trains except those carrying salt.
  • Expenses: – The Railways plans to spend over 1 lakh crore in 2015-16 while sparing the passengers of a fare hike. The estimated expenditure was Rs. 61,500 crores in 2014-15.
  • Speedy Trains: – However, India will not be getting the Bullet train anytime soon but the minister announced that they will introduce train sets saving 20% of journey time, similar to bullet trains in design that can run on existing tracks. The overall speeds of the trains on nine corridors will be increased to 160-200 km from 110 km.

The Budget has received mixed reactions from the analysts and people, but it is really about the time it delivers. Till then, the people of India will have to wait and watch if the “Transformational Budget” delivers for them or not.

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