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Smart cards, super AC travel and much more

Railway minister Mamataa Banerjee acknowledged that no headway had been made on plans to construct world-class railway stations, but was not short on promises to improve passenger amenities.

delhi Updated: Feb 26, 2011 00:35 IST

Railway minister Mamataa Banerjee acknowledged that no headway had been made on plans to construct world-class railway stations, but was not short on promises to improve passenger amenities.

A pan-India multi-purpose "Go India" smart card will be tried out on a pilot basis - enabling people to board a train by swiping their cards.

There are a slew of other announcements: More multi-functional complexes and budget hotels; better accessibility for physically challenged passengers by providing for the services of “Rail Yatri Sewaks” (volunteers) at more number of stations to assist aged persons, women and children.

Passengers will now be able to make advance bookings of railway retiring.

A new portal for e-ticketing has also been announced, while Banerjee announced plans for trying out internet access on the Howrah-Delhi Rajdhani on a pilot basis.

A new class of super AC travel has also been introduced.

The GPS-based train management systems will be extended to five more stations. Besides, Didi has not given up the idea to run bullet trains — announcing plans to undertake feasibility study with the help of Japan to raise speed of passenger trains to 160-200 kmph.

For al these noble declarations, the initiatives on passenger amenities seem to fall short. The budget shows little emphasis on the long-pending plans to install green toilets in trains or at ensuring cleanliness at stations. Plans on implementing guidelines of the new catering policy have also not found adequate mention in Banerjee's budget speech.

Given last year’s record of accidents and sabotage incidents, it was expected that the railways minister would accord emphasis on safety and security issues. These issues do not seem to have been dealt with adequately enough.