No increase in fares, freight
New Delhi, February 24
“Our objective is inclusive growth,” she said while presenting the Railway Budget for the year 2010-11, adding that her main consideration in this year's budget was social responsibility rather than mere commercial viability of projects. “We have set our goals in the Vision 2020 document and we will achieve it,” the minister said, referring to the document unveiled in December that has targeted making over 30,000 route kilometres or multiple lines against 18,000 route kilometres at present.
Mamata also proposed to reduce the maximum limit of service charge on e-booking of tickets to Rs10 for sleeper class and Rs 20 for AC class. The present maximum charge is Rs 15 nd Rs 40 respectively. This is the seventh year in a row that passenger fares have not been raised. Announcing a slew of concessions for passengers, Mamata proposed free travel for cancer patients going for treatment in three-tier AC and sleeper class and continuance of concessions for students of madrassas and journalists.
The minister said 101 new suburban services will be introduced in Mumbai and more services will be launched in Kolkata and Chennai.
A special train, Sanskriti Express, to mark the 150th birth anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore will run across the country and also to Bangladesh. Special tourist trains called Bharat Teerth will be started on 16 routes, while six long-distance non-stop Duronto Express and four short-distance Duronto day trains will be introduced, the Railway Minister said. She also announced that the technicians of the regional film industry would get 75 per cent concession in second class sleeper and 50 per cent in higher classes in all trains while travelling for film production-related work. The benefit of 50 per cent concession to the spouse of accredited journalists has been extended to the companions of those who do not have a spouse. Their dependent children of up to 18 years of age would also get 50 per cent concession once a year.
According to Mamata, 117 out of the 122 new trains promised in her last budget will be flagged off by March 31, within a matter of seven months, which was a commendable effort. Seeking to give safety issues due consideration, the minister said there were a few cases of unfortunate accidents in the past and said these would be prevented by adopting the highest level of technology and manpower training.
‘“Within five years, we will have 13,000 out of unmanned level crossings manned - 3,000 this fiscal and 1,000 in the coming fiscal,” she said, referring to the high number of accidents at such crossroads. The budget came against the backdrop of the share of theRailways in the movement of goods against road transport which has further fallen from 24.07 per cent in 2001-02 to 20.89 per cent in 2008-09 and further to 19.32 per cent in the first 10 months of this fiscal.
The budget estimates for 2010-11 pegs the freight loading target at 944 million tonnes, an increase of 54 million tonnes over current year’s revised estimates. The passenger traffic is likely to grow by 5.3 per cent.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee were among those in the house, presided over by Speaker Meira Kumar.
While Ladies Special trains would be renamed Matribhoomi Specials, three unreserved trains named Karambhoomi Specials will be introduced along with a weekly express service Janmabhoomi Express between Ahmedabad and Udhampur.
New services to be introduced include 54 trains, 28 new passenger services, nine MEMU and eight DEMU services. The routes of 21 trains will be extended and the frequency of 12 trains increased.
Other new projects include preliminary engineering-cum-traffic survey for north-south, east-west, east-south and south-south dedicated freight corridors. Six high-speed passenger train corridors have been identified to be executed through public-private partnership mode and a national high-speed rail authority will be set up for planning, implementing and monitoring these projects. A provision of Rs 4,411 crore has been provided in the plan for new lines while passenger amenities get Rs 1,302 crore and metro projects Rs 1,001 crore.