There is no hike in passenger fare in this year’s (2016-17) Railway Budget presented  in the Parliament today. 

Railway Minister  Suresh  Prabhakar Prabhu, presenting the Budget,  said   the budget seeks to fulfil the  long-felt desires of the common man such as   reserved accommodation on trains available on demand, time tabled freight trains, high end technology to improve safety record, elimination of all unmanned level crossings, improved punctuality, higher average speed of freight trains, semi high speed trains running along the golden quadrilateral, zero direct discharge of human waste by the year 2020. He said  the  Cabinet approval has been received for re-development of stations under PPP mode. He said the Indian Railways budget  proposes to   overcome challenges by Reorganizing Restructuring and  Rejuvenating Indian Railways  with the Slogan “Chalo, Milkar Kuch Naya Karen’”.  The strategy  for this will have  three pillars  i.e. Nav Arjan – New revenues, Nav Manak – New norms, and Nav Sanrachna – New Structures.

            The Minister said that in order to make travel on Indian Railways more comfortable, the Indian Railways proposes to give more facilities to the passengers. 65,000 additional berths will be provided in the trains and 2500 water vending machines  will be installed .  The railways have developed world’s first Bio-Vaccum toilet and 17,000 Bio-toilets will be provided in the trains.  With the purpose of improving  punctuality of trains ,  operations  audit  from Ghaziabad to Mughalsarai section will be introduced.   The Indian Railways  proposes  to introduce  1,780 Automatic Ticket Vending Machines all over the country with  mobile apps and  GoIndia smartcard for cashless purchase of UTS and PRS tickets. The capacity of  e-ticketing system will be enhanced  from 2,000 tickets per minute to 7,200 tickets per minute to support 1,20,000 concurrent users as against  40,000 earlier.  400 more stations will be provided  with Wi Fi facilities.

            As a part of social initiatives, online booking of wheelchairs and Braille enabled new coaches will be introduced for the Divyang. Increased quota of lower berths for senior citizens and women and reserving  middle bays for women in reserved  coaches has been proposed.   Passengers security will be enhanced through more helplines and CCTVs.

To reduce accidents at level crossings, the budget proposes to eliminate 1000 unmanned level crossings and closures of 350 manned level crossings.  820 Rail Over Bridges (ROB)/ Rail Under Bridges (RUB) will be completed during the current financial year and work is going on in additional 1350 of them. 

Referring to the progress of  Dedicated Freight Corridor Project,  the Railway Minister said that almost all contracts for civil engineering works will be awarded by the end of this financial year.  He said Rs.24,000 crore worth contracts  were awarded since November 2014 as against Rs. 13,000 crore contracts awarded during the last six years.   He said Railways proposes to take up  North-South, East-West and East Coast freight corridors through innovative financing including PPP.

            The following are some of the highlights of the Railway Budget:           Referring to the financial performance the Minister said during  2015-16  a saving of Rs.8720 crore could be achieved  neutralizing the most of the revenue  shortfall with operating ratio of 90%.  He said the budget proposes operating ratio of 92%,  restricting  growth of ordinary working expenses by 11.6% after building in immediate impact of 7th PC, reduction in  diesel and electricity consumption and Revenue generation  of Rs. 1,84,820 crore for 2016-17.  He said during 2015-16 investment would be close to double of average of  previous five years.

            Railways would be able to achieve annualized  savings of  Rs.3000 crore in the energy sector during the next financial year itself, a year earlier than announced.  He said this could be achieved by procuring  power directly at competitive rates. Social media will be used  as a tool to bring in transparency. All procurement including procurement of works  will be moved  to e-platform.  The trial of awarding tender electronically  was successful and it will be rolled out  on Pan India basis  in 2016-17.

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