From installing hi-tech devices to detect cracks in rail tracks to recruiting thousands of policewomen to guard female passengers, railway minister DV Sadananda Gowda has sought to lay greater emphasis on passenger safety and security.
The move comes amid growing instances of railway accidents in the country's north and east where Maoist rebels have often been accused of sabotaging trains by removing fish plates. The recruitment of some 4,000 Railway Police Force woman constables is seen as part of the government's efforts to ensure greater security for women.
Presenting his maiden budget speech on Tuesday, Gowda said his ministry will install ultrasonic broken rail detection system on a pilot basis on two locations to detect weld and rail fractures.
Besides, to improve safety of travelling passengers, a technology for automatic closing of doors before the train starts would be installed both in mainline and in sub-urban coaches.
The minister spoke of steps that would be taken to ensure the safety of women passengers. "With the induction of women Railway Protection Force (RPF) constables, ladies coaches will have escorts," the railway minister announced. "Additional care will be taken for women travelling alone."
The railways do not have an easy job at hand. To ensure passenger safety, funds to the tune of Rs 40,000 crore would be required to be invested in track renewals, elimination of unmanned level crossings and construction of road under-bridges and over-bridges.
For 2014-15, Gowda has allocated Rs 1,785 crore for the construction of road underbridges and overbridges. Railway officials said this would go a long way in bringing down casualties at level crossings; 40% of all rail casualties occur at unmanned crossings.
The railway minister also announced the government's decision to eliminate unmanned level crossings altogether. "Each unmanned level crossing is being examined in detail and depending on the site condition, action will be taken to eliminate it," Gowda said in his speech.