An indirect hike on passenger fares by way of a safety or a modernisation surcharge? Deployment of level-2 of the European Train Control System (ETCS) project for ensuring passenger safety? Grand plans to ramp up catering services by roping in global firms such as the Singapore Airport Terminal Services and the Cremonini of Italy?
While railway minister Dinesh Trivedi can make a reference to such issues, his budget speech on Wednesday is likely to miss out on the usual fanfare and hype associated with the presentations made by his predecessors.
Against the usual number of 50 new trains that railways ministers have announced in the previous years, Trivedi is likely to launch approximately half the numbers, sources said.
Only seven works projects (including new lines, gauge conversion, doubling, signaling and major bridges) are likely to be announced by Trivedi—the smallest number as compared to the projects announced in the previous years.
Former railways minister Mamata Banerjee had launched 16 projects in 2010-11. Three years earlier, her predecessor Lalu Prasad had made a record announcement of 26 projects.
Bigger allocations for Bengal projects, including the Kachrapara coach factory and the Majerhat freight terminal are likely. New projects may include the extension of two new routes for the Kolkata metro.
A decision on the coach factory for the Kolkata Metro is likely. Providing a roadmap for extricating the public transporter from its crippling financial status will be a challenge that the railways minister will need to address in his speech.