Railways are unlikely to carry out any major changes in passenger fares in the Rail Budget for the eighth year in succession, even as more than 100 new trains could be announced, including a dozen non stop Durontos.
The Rail Budget 2011-12, to be presented in Lok Sabha on Friday, may also include provision for mega base kitchens in the metros preparing 50,000 to 1 lakh meals per day for train passengers. These would be managed by the railways itself, as per the new catering policy, sources said.
Rail Minister Mamata Banerjee, facing Assembly elections in West Bengal in two months, could also announce a slew of projects for her state, including a rail link connecting the busy Howrah and Sealdah stations, running through the densely populated central districts of Kolkata.
Catering to the student community, she could also announce induction of special student trains, keeping in mind travel requirements during examinations and trains with bookings only under the 'Tatkal' scheme.
A multi mode transport system between Hyderabad and Secunderabad is likely to find a mention in the budget, along with capacity enhancement of the Mumbai suburban rail system.
Banerjee could also announce measures to step up work on the dedicated Rail Freight Corridors project which is lagging behind schedule, while the national transporter would continue to maintain the dynamic pricing policy in freight.
The Finance ministry is likely to grant Rs 20,000 crore as gross budgetary support, though the Railways had sought about Rs 39,000 crore from the Centre, the sources said.
As a last ditch effort, Banerjee has reached out to the Planning Commission for approval of many of her pet projects, even as the former is understood to be hesitant in accepting most of them.
Sources said the Commission has accepted 14 of the 40 rail projects which she had planned to announce during the Rail Budget.
An SMS based service for passengers to lodge complaints against rail services is also likely to be announced. Sources said the number '132' is being finalised for lodging complaints through SMSes from anywhere in the country. Like the inquiry number 131, the new 132 number will be an all India service.
The Budget comes at a time when the Railways is facing a financial crunch with its operating ratio inching close to the 100 level mark. "So there will be a few measures for generation of more internal resources," they said.
A new industrial park, a green toilet manufacturing plant in Nagpur and new coaching complexes at places like Haldia and Majerhat could also figure in the Budget.
For the north-east, a new diesel loco shed is expected to come up in Assam, keeping in mind growing traffic in the region and the strategic importance of the place. More DMU trains are also likely in the Budget for the north-east, as the Railways proposes to introduce new Duronto services from Guwahati to New Delhi and Howrah.