Union Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu presented his maiden budget for the Indian Railways in the Lok Sabha on 25 February 2015. Outlining the budget estimates for the coming year, he proposed a plan outlay of ₹1,00,011 crore, an increase of 52 per cent over revised estimate of 2014-15. Passenger earnings growth has been pegged at 16.7 per cent and earnings target budgeted at ₹50,175 crore.
Goods earnings is accordingly proposed at ₹1,21,423 crore, which includes rationalisation of rates, commodity classification and distance slabs. The Minister hiked the freight rate for cement, coal, others by up to 10 per cent.
Other coaching and sundries are projected at ₹4,612 crore and $7,318 crore. Gross traffic receipts are estimated at ₹1,83,578 crore, a growth of 15.3 per cent.
Giving details of investments segment-wise, he earmarked ₹1,99,320 crore for network decogestion, including DFC and electrification, ₹39,000 crore for national projects (North Eastern and Kashmir connectivity projects) and ₹1,27,000 for safety (track renewal, bridge works, road overbridge, road underbridge, and signalling and telecom).
₹5000 crore was allocated for information technology/research, ₹1,02,000 crore for rolling stock (locomotives, coaches, wagons production and maintenance), ₹2,500 crore for passenger amenities, ₹65,000 crore for high speed rail and elevated corridor, ₹1,00,000 crore for station redevelopment and logistic parks.
Mr Prabhu stressed on 11 key railway services where his ministry will be looking to perform:
- Cleanliness: Swachh Rail Swachh Bharat, new department for cleanliness, integrated cleaning by engaging professional agencies and training staff, ‘waste to energy’ conversion plants, new bio-toilets, covering 650 additional.
- Bed linen: NIFT to design; online booking of disposable bed rolls.
- Help-line: 24X7 helpline number 138; toll-free number 182 for security related complaints.
- Ticketing: operation five minutes for issuing unreserved tickets, hot buttons, coin vending machines, single destination teller, concessional e-tickets for differently abled travelers, developing a multi-lingual e-portal, crediting of refunds through banks, unreserved tickets on Smart phones, proliferation of automatic ticket vending machines with smart cards and currency options, integrated ticketing system on the lines of rail-cum-road tickets, Defence Travel System for elimination of Warrants.
- Catering: e-catering to select meals from an array of choices. Ordering food through IRCTC website at the time of booking of tickets; integrating best food chains into this project; setting up of Base Kitchens in specified Divisions to be run by reputed agencies for serving quality food; expansion of water vending machines.
- Leveraging technology: Hand-held terminals to Travelling Ticket Examiners (TTEs) for verification of passengers and downloading charts; possibility of extending facility of SMS on mobiles as a valid proof of travel for PRS tickets; integrated customer portal as a single interface to access different services; Introduction of a centrally managed Railway Display Network in over 2000 stations in next two years; “SMS Alert” service to inform passengers in advance of the updated arrival/departure time of trains at starting or destination stations.
- Surveillance: Surveillance cameras to be provided on a pilot basis in selected mainline coaches and ladies’ compartments of suburban coaches without intruding into privacy.
- Entertainment: Project for introducing on-board entertainment on select Shatabdi trains on license fee basis launched; Mobile phone charging facilities to be provided in general class coaches and increased in sleeper class coaches.
- Station facilities: 200 more stations to come under Adarsh Station scheme; Wi-Fi to be provided at B category stations; facility of self-operated lockers to be made available at stations; provision of concierge services through IRCTC at major stations; online booking of wheel chair on payment basis for senior citizens, patients and the differently-abled passengers through IRCTC on select stations.
- Train capacity: capacity in identified trains be augmented to run with 26 coaches; more General class coaches to be added in identified trains;
- Comfortable travel: NID approached to design user friendly ladders for climbing upper berths; increase in quota of lower berths for senior citizens; TTEs to be instructed to help senior citizens, pregnant women and differently-abled persons in obtaining lower berths; middle bay of coaches to be reserved for women and senior citizen; NID to develop ergonomically designed seats; introduction of train sets; Provision of ₹120 crore for Lifts and escalator which is 76% higher; newly manufactured coaches to be Braille enabled; building of wider entrances for the ease of differently-abled passengers; allocation for passenger amenities up by 67% Y-O-Y. Corporate houses and MPs to be requested to invest in improving passenger amenities at Railway stations through CSR and MPLAD funds; Divisional Committees in each Railway to be chaired by Members of Parliament.
Over the next five years, the Rail Minister has spelled out four goals to transform the current state of Railways. This includes: (a) Improving passenger amenities by providing facilities like cleanliness, hygiene and enhancing speed of trains; (b) Secondly, emphasis on accident free and safe travel; (c) Further, thrust is being laid on modernising and enhancing the current infrastructure to increase passenger and freight carrying capacity; (d) Endeavour would be made on making Railways self sufficient by tighter cost control measures and better discipline in project selection and execution. Also, focus will be on improving internal revenue generation and measures to increase private partnership.