After the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led central government decided to combine rail budget with the general Union budget, it be will the first time that a union railway minister will not present the separate railway budget in the Parliament.
While the Mumbaiites are excited about the upcoming budget, hoping for a bonanza, railway officials said Finance minister Arun Jaitley’s budget is likely to focus on completion of projects instead of big ticket announcements owing to the ongoing code of conduct implemented by the Election Commission for the upcoming assembly and civic polls. They also said that the rail fare hike was unlikely.
A senior railway official said that MUTP-II and MUTP-III projects are likely to get ample funds. MUTP-III has three major projects, Virar-Dahanu quadrupling, Airoli-Kalawa elevated link and Panvel-Karjat doubling, that were inaugurated by Modi last year.
“In 2017-18, the city is likely to receive major financial boost for MUTP-III projects. There could be sanction for more AC and 15-car suburban trains,” said Kirit Somaiya, BJP MP. He also hoped allocation of funds for safety and security-related projects such as increasing the height of platforms, installation of escalators, construction of compound walls and fencing near track to curb trespassing.
Railway officials said they are expecting announcements pertaining mega projects like Churchgate-Virar and CST-Panvel elevated corridors, apart from the proposed bullet train between Mumbai and Ahmedabad. While Union railway minister Suresh Prabhu is keen on implementing the elevated corridors, bullet train is the pet project of the PM.
The state government has also sought sufficient funds for the suburban railway projects in Mumbai and other ongoing projects on its outskirts and chief minister Devendra Fadanvis has forwarded his list to Prabhu.
Sources said the state has demanded Rs200 crore for Kalyan-Kasara third line, which would help the Railways operate additional suburban services on the corridor. Moreover, Rs800 crore have been sought for other ongoing railway projects, including Ahmednagar-Beed-Parali railway line. Also, state has asked railways to make monetary provisions for MUTP-II and MUTP-III projects.
Passenger activists, however, said that the focus should be on completing the ongoing projects at the earliest. “Fund allocation for new projects is welcomed, but what about those underway? The railways should review their ongoing projects and finish them at the earliest,” said Kailash Verma, committee member, Zonal Railway User’s Consultative .