The Railway Budget was presented by the Railway Minister – Mr. Suresh Prabhu on the 26th February 2015. The Railway Budget has not made any major announcements or grandiose plans, and to that extent, it is a deviation from the regular railway budgets put out so far. This Budget seeks to improve the operations, safety and cleanliness in Indian Railways. The main thrust of the Budget is to push forward the three initiatives of Prime Minister Narendra Modi – Make in India, Digital India and Swachch Bharat Mission.
As far as the passenger is concerned, his main concern relating to rail fares has been addressed and there will be no increase in fares. It is expected that a sum of Rs. 8.5 lakh crore will be invested in the Railways over the next five years. The funding for the same will be tapped from various sources such as pension funds and multilateral development banks, to name a few.
Unreserved passengers travelling in a train can purchase tickets in five minutes and rail tickets can be booked 120 days in advance. Online booking of wheel chairs for senior citizens will be possible. Bio toilets and vacuum toilets of the type found in aircraft will be fitted in trains and there will be surveillance cameras in select coaches and the ladies coach of the train. The rail speed on nine rail corridors can touch 200 km per hour. All compartments will have mobile charging facility and there will be Wi-Fi in more stations.
A Rail Display Network that is centrally managed will be erected in more than two thousand stations. All India toll free helplines and security lines will be set up. Various stakeholders will be allowed to pitch in with funds and private players could play a major part in last mile connectivity. Even entire stations can be managed by private players.
The Budget itself may be lacking in big plans, but there will be an emphasis on improving management practices, systems, processes and human resources. It is also proposed to decongest networks on a priority basis. Priority will also be given to last mile connectivity. Work that has already been sanctioned on double / third / and fourth lines will be expedited. 800 km of gauge conversion is expected to be commissioned in the current fiscal itself. And railway electrification is expected to be speeded up.
The Budget is aimed more at clearing the mess in administration, managing human resources and streamlining the administration of the Railways. Mr. Prabhu has always maintained that he is more concerned in restoring the Railways back to health rather than introducing populist measures. And Prabhu seems to mean action! He has already asked for fortnightly reports pertaining to the implementation of the budget proposals.
The All India Helpline 138 has already been launched and the Customer Complaint Portal has already been set up. The Complaint can also be made through an app that can be downloaded to an Android. Let us hope that the progress on the ground will be on track!