Railway minister Mamataa Banerjee flagged off the Bengal poll express on Friday, announcing quite a few initiatives for her home state in her third consecutive budget.
Playing out on the “aam aadmi” theme, Banerjee apportioned 40 of the 99 new trains and 14 of the 45 multi-functional centres for Bengal, besides announcing a slew of other projects for the state.In the surcharged political climate ahead of the impending Bengal elections, the railways minister – predictably enough – did not impose any hike on passenger fares.
Major Bengal projects include plans to set up a metro coach factory at Singur; 34 new services for the Kolkata metro; a coaching terminal at Dankuni and a new line to link Bhadutola-Jhargram via Lalgarh.
The Anti-Collusion Devices (ACDs) trials have also been extended to the Kolkata-based Eastern and South Eastern Railways, Banerjee announced. New Express trains
Even as Banerjee was reading out her speech, Janata Dal members including Rajiv Ranjan Singh 'Lallan' and Munazir Hasan vociferously protested against her alleged Bengal-bias, demanding to be informed about the future of the pending railway projects in Bihar.
Against last year’s revised outlay of Rs 40,315 crore, Banerjee provided for an enhanced plan outlay of Rs 57, 630 crore this year, allocating Rs 9,583 crore for new lines, R5,406 crore for doubling works, Rs 2,470 crore for gauge conversion and Rs 13,820 crore for acquisition of rolling stock.
Reading out what was probably her last budget speech of the current term, Banerjee seemed to be geared towards making grand-sounding schemes: The creation of a non-lapsable fund for railway projects in the northeast and the setting up of a “Pradhan Mantri Rail Vikas Yojna” for taking up “socially desirable projects” and the setting up of a central organisation for project implementation.
The seven sister states of the northeast also figured prominently on Banerjee's radar. "All state capitals of the northeast, except Sikkim, will get connected by rail network in the next seven years," she said. Full text of Mamataa's speech
A bridge factory in J&K and a state-of-the-art institute for tunnel and bridge engineering at Jammu are among other major projects announced.
But railway finances continue to cause concern, as the operating ratio (an indicator of the organisation’s financial health) continues to hover around the danger mark.
Against an operating ratio — sum spent against R100 earned — of 92.1% last year, the figure has been anticipated at 91.1% next year.