The passenger fare hike is a bold step. The rail minister has proposed a 30 paisa per km hike for AC first class travel, a 15 paisa per km hike for AC second tier and a 10 paisa per km hike for AC third tier. Platform tickets would now cost Rs 5.
“The proposal to rationalize the fares will cause minimum impact on the common man,” the minister said. Passenger fares are likely to add Rs 36,073 crore to the railway’s revenue in the next fiscal.
The hike in fares snaps a populist trend to help mend the finances of a creaking network that is a bottleneck for growth in Asia’s third-largest economy. The refusal by successive ministers to raise fares has strained the ministry’s finances, which in turn has sapped the amount of money available to lay new track and modernize services.
“Indian railways are passing through a difficult phase,” Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi told parliament. “If we do not strengthen Indian railways, I’m afraid we weaken our country,” he added, in a speech that was littered with poetry and occasionally interrupted by jeers and laughter.
Rail Budget at a glance:
*Passenger fares to be hiked by 2 paise per km for suburban and ordinary second class travel; 3 paise per km for mail/ express second class; 5 paise per km for sleeper class; 10 paise per km for AC chair car/AC 3-tier and First Class; 15 paise per km for AC 2-tier and 30 paise per km for AC 1-tier.
*Minimum fare and platform tickets to cost Rs 5.
* The open discharge toilets on trains to be replaced with green (bio) toilets.
*Steps to improve cleanliness and hygiene on trains and stations within six months. A special housekeeping body will be set up to take care of both stations and trains.
*New passenger services include escalators at major stations; alternative train accommodation for wait-listed passengers, laundry services, AC lounges, coin/currency operated ticket vending machines.
*On board passenger displays indicating next halt station and expected arrival time to be introduced.
*Introduction of regional cuisine; Book-a-meal scheme to provide meals through SMS or email.
*Specially designed coaches for differently-abled persons to be provided in each Mail/Express trains.
*Wellness programme for railway staff at work places.
*Institution of Rail Khel Ratna Award for 10 rail sports-persons every year.
*75 mew Express trains to be introduced, along with 21 new passenger services, nine DEMU services and 8 MEMU services trains.
*Route of 39 trains to be extended and frequency of 23 trains to be increased.
*Railways to hire more than one lakh employees in 2012-13; 80,000 persons hired last year.
*Indian Railways Stations Development Corp to be set up to re-develop stations and maintain them like airports.
*To provide rail connectivity to neighbouring countries, a new line from Agartala to Akura in Bangladesh to be set up.
*Double-decker container trains to be introduced.
*National High Speed Rail Authority to be set-up; Pre-feasibility studies on six high speed corridors completed; study on Delhi-Jaipur-Ajmer-Jodhpur to be taken up in 2012-13.
*A wagon factory at Sitapali, Odisha, rail coach factory at Palakkad, two additional new coach manufacturing units in Kutch (Gujarat) and Kolar (Karnataka); component factory at Shyamnagar (West Bengal); new coaching terminal at Naihati, the birth place of Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay.
*To set up an independent Railway Safety Authority as a statutory body.
*All unmanned level crossings to be abolished in next five years; to target zero deaths due to rail accidents.
*Two new members, one for marketing, and other for safety, to be inducted into Railway Board.
*Railway Tariff Regulatory Authority to be considered.
*Freight loading of 1,025 MT targeted; 55 MT more than 2011-12; Passenger growth targeted at 5.4 per cent.
*Passenger earnings to increase to Rs 36,200 crore.
*Gross rail traffic targeted to increase by Rs 28,635 crore to Rs 1,32,552 crore in 2012-13.