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Amenities Hog Rail Budget Limelight

Mamata Banerjee presented the Rail Budget, saying economic viability must be replaced with social viability

Laying to rest any worries that the Railways may water-down some of the earlier years’ largesse, Mamta Banerjee said that she will present a "simple, but pro-people" budget and that the concerns of passengers, from safety to facilities, would be addressed.

There will be no increase in passenger fare and freight tariff, the Minister announced, setting off applause in the Lower House.

The Railway Budget proposed an outlay of Rs 40,745 crore for 2009-10, of which of Rs 2,921 crore will be spent on laying new lines, Rs 1,750 cr would be spent on gauge conversion and Rs 1,102 crore would be dedicated to passenger amenities. The freight loading target of 882 MT was set by the Budget and estimated gross freight receipts were put at Rs 88,419 crore.

The Minister said that while traffic receipts jumped by 11.4 per cent at Rs 79,862 crore in 2008-09, freight loading during the period grew by 5 per cent.

Among the other Budget proposals is gauge conversion of 17 lines, laying of 7 new lines, and doubling of 13 railway lines.

The Minister made the Tatkal scheme more passenger-friendly, saying minimum charges would get reduced, but booking time too would be cut. The scheme charges passengers more for short-notice bookings. The charges have been rationalised by taking money for the distance travelled and not the full amount, no matter if the passenger needs to get off half-way i.e. a person travelling from Delhi to Patna does not have to pay the full amount to Assam, which is the end point of that train. 

Looking to take the Indian Railways to the grassroot level, the Minister said that that all efforts would be dedicated towards that end. Among the more eye-catching facilities to be provided would be mobile ticketing vans, nicknamed Mushkil Aasaan to connect the remote areas to the Railway's network.

She did sound a warning to those who want to run the public sector undertakings (PSUs) purely on an economic basis: "Our economic and social philosophers have to change their old mindset of economic viability and replace it with social viability and social upliftment."

To an extent she did that by stressing on the fact that rail projects’ success must not be measured via economic viability alone.
The Indian Railways boast of the second-largest railway network in the world. This was the 15th Railway Budget presented in the Parliament.

She announced measures that included the introduction of double-decker trains for traveling within cities as well as development of fifty world class stations. She said that girl child scholarships for Group B employees would be introduced, safety of women would be ensured by increasing the presence of women commandos, better access to trains and stations would be provided to the physically challenged passengers and automatic ticket vending machines would be made available in some of the largest train stations.

The Minister pegged the Indian Railways net revenue at Rs 8,121.48 crore for 2009-10, which is less than that set by her predecessor at the ministry, Laloo Yadav, who had set it at Rs 10,876.48 crore in the Interim Budget in February.

The Railways investible surplus is at Rs 8,631.04 crore, which is again lower than the amount proposed by Yadav.

However, despite these reverses, the Minister still increased the dividend to be paid to the Centre to Rs 5,479.22 crore for this fiscal from the one set by Yadav, which stood at Rs 5,304.22 crore.

MarketWatch:

WIth the Railway Budget indicating that it would be going on a major expansion drive across a number of segments, railways-related infrastructure stocks gained on the stock markets.

The Budget had stressed the fact that facilities would be improved for passengers in railway stations as well as 50 major stations would be upgraded to world-class standards, double-decker coaches would be inducted, and 18,000 new wagons would be purchased, indicated many projects coming the way of these companies. Among the biggest gainers were NTPC, GMR Infrastructure, Lanco Industries, Reliance Infrastructure, Titagarh Wagons, Jindal Steel, Siemens, BEML and Texmaco.

NTPC stock surged by nearly 2 per cent today on expectations that it would be the ultimate beneficiary of the Rail Budget's announcement regarding the setting up of a 1,000 MW power plant -- proposed to be set up in Andhra Pradesh.

Check Out The Latest Stock Prices:
NTPC, GMR Infrastructure, Lanco Industries, Reliance Infrastructure, Titagarh Wagons, Jindal Steel, Siemens, BEML, Texmaco, Kalindee Rail Nirman Engineers, Container Corporation, Simplex Casting, Kernex Microsystems, Stone India, Hind Rectifiers

Here are the highlights of Railway Budget 2009-10, presented in the Lok Sabha:

• No hike in fares and freight rates

Tatkal charges reduced, booking time slashed from 5 to 2 days

• Railways earmark Rs 1,102 crore to improve passenger amenities

• Budget hotels at stations to be ensured

• For the low-income groups a monthly travel scheme called Ijjat was announced

• The Interim Budget presented in February had set unrealistic targets that would be unsustainable

• The Metro in Kolkata to be extended

• Cold storages for farmers would get developed

• Freight loading fell short of target; target set at 882 million tonnes for 2009-10

• Budgetary support in 2009-10 gets Rs 50 billion increase

• The number of wagons to be acquired would be 18,000

• Railway recruitment would be tilted in favour of minorities, women and the economically backward

• Unorganised sector employees with income below Rs 1,500 to get Rs 25 monthly pass for travel up to 100 km

• Delhi and Chennai and Delhi and Mumbai to get superfast parcel express trains on a pilot basis

• Bengal would get a new coach factory at Kanchrapara

• Railway land in Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai would be used to open 7 nursing colleges

• Public-private-partnership method would be used to develop railway medical colleges

• Eastern and Western corridors would get Mega logistic hubs

• Private freight terminals to see light of day

• Commercial use of railway land to be increased on lease basis

• A drive to hire physically challenged to be launched

• Tollygunj Metro Rail Hospital to be upgraded

• Railways staff to get new hospitals

• Physically challenged passengers would be able to avail services like ramps and bogeys

• Inter-city travel in air-conditioned double-decker coaches to be started

• Ticketing terminals, unreserved, to be increased to 8,000

• 5,000 post offices to offer computerised tickets

• Major stations will have automatic ticket vending machines

• Waitlisted passengers to get SMS updates

• Cleanliness and punctuality would get top priority

• 200 new towns and cities to get ticketing services

• Long-distance trains to have one doctor on duty

• Shatabdi and Rajdhani trains to offer on-board infotainment services

• Upgradation promised for 49 stations of religious significance

• Improved toilet facilities for women to be available

• 50 stations would be developed as world-class stations: CST Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur, Howrah, Sealdah

• Socially unviable projects to get an expert committee

• Simple food, janta khana, would be on offer in railway stations