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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.

UTS Mobile Ticketing Service by Indian Railways

The Hon’ble Minister of Railways inaugurated the UTS Mobile Ticketing services ( Unreserved Suburban Tickets ) on December 27th, 2014. UTS or the unreserved ticketing services were a promise by the Indian Railways in making the suburban rail commuting more convenient and trouble-free for the common passenger. 21 million people around the big cities in this country travel on a daily basis into and out of the city. The majority of them use the suburban railway system. In Mumbai, it is called the lifeblood of the city. The system is now operational and now can be used in the Mumbai and Chennai suburban railway systems.

The Registration Process –

First and foremost, those passengers, who would like to use this facility, would have to have a Smartphone. Currently, the smartphones with the Android operating system and the Windows operating systems offer the service. The other two main operating systems the ios and the Blackberry do not support the system. The logic behind that is that people, who use such a system, are generally not the ones who travel by suburban railways.

First, one will have to download the UTS mobile application from the application marketplace of the above two operating systems. The application has been built in-house by the CRIS, which stands for Centre for Railway Information Systems.

The registration can be done in two ways. The passenger can either do it from the mobile application itself or by using the website utsonmobile.indianrail.gov.in. In the registration process, the person will have to provide his or her mobile number, name, the city, the default booking train type, the class, the ticket type, the frequently travelled routes and the number of passengers.

The Railway Wallet –

The next thing that the passenger need to do is have a Railway wallet or as they are calling them R Wallet.

The railway wallet is the only method by which ticket can be purchased from the UTS mobile application. First and foremost, a passenger has to register himself or herself in the R wallet ecosystem. Then, they will have to link it to a mobile number. Initially, the railway wallet will show zero balance as one has not added any money to it.

The recharging process of the railway wallet is a very simple proposition. There are two ways of doing it. Either the passenger can approach the numerous UTS counters available in the suburban railway stations to recharge or he can visit the utsonmobile.indianrail.gov.in portal to recharge using a credit card, debit card or online banking system.

When a person is making a ticket booking, the application will check if there is enough balance in the r wallet to make the purchase. If there is, then it will make the booking, otherwise, it will prompt to recharge the R wallet. If one cancels the ticket, the amount deducted for the purchase of the ticket will be refunded to the R wallet.

The Train Travel –

After buying the tickets, one will need to carry the mobile phone with him while making the journey. Then when in the source station, the place from where one will start their journey, a passenger will have to locate an ATVM machine. These machines have been set up at all the stations to get printouts of the tickets booked via the mobile application. With this printout in your hand, you are ready to start your journey. Unfortunately, after taking a printout, you cannot cancel your journey.

The Advantages –

There are a number of advantages in using this system. Firstly, it is a much quicker process to book tickets, especially for the routes that you travel frequently. Next is that, one can book tickets for any suburban rail station! The third is that one can cancel a ticket if there is a change of plan. The fourth option is that the application maintains a log of the booked tickets so that you can rebook them quickly if you wish to, and finally, the application tracks your r wallet and tells you if you need to recharge it.

Indian Railways is a large network that caters to the tens of millions of customers every day. With innovations like UTS mobile ticketing service, the bond between the brand Railways and the passengers become a little better.