Union Railway Minister Lalu Prasad’s interim budget has failed in populism for Mumbai. Except for a few new trains and a study to examine if a bullet train can run between the Mumbai-Pune-Ahmedabad sector, there is no mention of Mumbai.
Suburban commuters have been completely ignored and have not even been included in the 2-per cent fare cut that has been announced across the board for local and out-station trains.
Railway officials said it was an interim budget and no announcements should be expected. But passenger associations blasted the budget saying it was an insult to the 65 lakh commuters of Mumbai.
“One cannot discriminate like this between suburban and non-suburban commuters. The fare cut should have included local commuters,” said Dipak Gandhi of Mumbai Suburban Railway Passengers’ Association.
Added Subhash Gupta of Mumbai Yatri Sangh: “The bullet train study is not new, it was announced last year. Shockingly, there was nothing on security, post-26/11.”
The railways should have allocated money for funding projects like running 12-coach trains on harbour line and the quadrupling of Virar-Dahanu section, which do not fall under the Mumbai Urban Transport Project (MUTP), the city’s transport upgrade project, a railway official said.
The railways in Mumbai were also waiting to levy 8 per cent surcharge on basic fare to pay off the World Bank loan. The proposed second round of surcharge is a part of the funding arrangements of the MUTP. But most officials feel this may be deferred and the railway board may not approve it due to the ensuing elections.
On the funding for MUTP-II, P.C. Sehgal, managing director of Mumbai Railway Vikas Corporation, said: “We have already begun work on Phase II.”
Railway officials said all eyes were now on the “pink book” of the railways that will allocate the actual amount of money for various on-going projects to each railway zone. The book should be released within two days.