Departing from normal practice, Railway Minister Lalu Prasad today announced an across-the-board two per cent cut in fares of ordinary and AC class in the interim budget for 2009-10. Listen to podcast
Presenting the vote-on-account for expenses in the first four months of next fiscal, he also announced reduction in the fares of ordinary passenger trains by Rs one for fares costing upto Rs 50 for journey above 10 km.
The interim budget makes no changes in relation to freight rates.
Normally, the interim budgets do not carry any financial proposals in view of the fact that it is a vote-on-account ahead of the General Elections.
Recalling that he had decided to reduce the second class fares of all mail, express and ordinary trains by 5 per cent for tickets above Rs 50 last year, Prasad said respecting the aspirations of the long distance passengers he has decided to reduce the second class and sleeper class fares of all mail and express and ordinary passenger trains by two per cent for the ticket costing more than Rs 50.
He said during the last four years, he had reduced the fares of AC First class by 28 per cent and AC II tier by 20 per cent.
Even as air travel is reportedly reflecting reduction in number of passengers due to economic slowdown, there has been a significant increase in the number of passengers of these classes on the Railways.
"Therefore, I have decided to reduce the fares of AC First Class, AC II tier and AC III tier and AC Chair Car by two per cent," he said admist thumping of desks by members of ruling benches in Lok Sabha.
The Minister said since the fare for rail travel for 10 km and below has already been reduced from Rs 4 to Rs 1, this reduction will not be applicable for second class rail journey upto 10 km.
He announced introduction of 43 new trains and extension of services of 14 others. Frequency of 14 trains has also been increased.
In the wake of his visit to Japan, Germany and France to see the running of trains at speed between 300 and 350 km per hour, Prasad said action is on for examining feasibility of running bullet trains between Delhi-Amritsar, Ahmedabad-Mumbai-Pune, Hyderabad-Vijayawada-Chennai, Chennai-Bangalore, Ernakulam and Howrah-Haldia.
Action would also soon be started for conducting a pre-feasibility study to run bullet trains between Delhi and Patna.
Surveys for 14 new lines, gauge conversion of three and doubling of eight railway lines are proposed to be undertaken.
Following are the highlights of the interim rail budget for next fiscal presented by Railway Minister Lalu Prasad in Lok Sabha on Friday:
* Two per cent reduction in fares for virtually all classes
* Feasibility studies progressing well to start 'bullet trains' in India
* Railways will create record surplus of Rs.900 billion (Rs.90,000 crore) this fiscal
* In past five years, no burden imposed on train passengers
* Railways saw 14 per cent rise in passenger income
* Railways managed 8 percent growth in freight loading in five years
* But freight down in current year due to economic downturn
* Drop in train accidents, railway safety enhanced
* Rs.700 billion (Rs.70,000 crore) surplus ploughed back to improve efficiency
* Rs.367.73 billion (Rs.36,773 crore) spent this fiscal toward productivity, passenger facilities
* Railways to introduce wagons with higher capacity
* Railways to spend Rs.230 billion (Rs.23,000 crore) in 2009-10
* Work has started on Delhi-Mumbai dedicated freight corridor
* Dedicated freight corridor from Ludhiana to Kolkata to be inaugurated later this month
* Kolkata Metro will be expanded
* Frequencies of a host of trains enhanced
* Frequencies of several trains across the country increased to daily service
* Steps to have railway connectivity to Kashmir initiated
* Railways have set up four call centres