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Saturday, Aug 17, 2019

Budget: No hike in train passenger fare, focus on safety and security

There is no hike in passenger fare and freight charges in the budget that comes ahead of the crucial Lok Sabha polls.

budget Updated: Feb 02, 2019 14:09 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Commuters travel in an overcrowded train near a railway station in Ghaziabad, on the outskirts of New Delhi, India, February 1, 2019.
Commuters travel in an overcrowded train near a railway station in Ghaziabad, on the outskirts of New Delhi, India, February 1, 2019. (REUTERS)
         

Indian Railways will focus on signalling to improve safety and will introduce advanced anti-collision systems such as ETCS (European Train Control System) and Train Collision Avoidance System (TCAS), Railway Board chairman VK Yadav said on Friday.

In the interim budget presented on Friday, finance minister Piyush Goyal, who also holds the railways portfolio, proposed an allocation of ₹.58 lakh crore for Indian Railways against ₹1.38 lakh crore in previous financial year.

There is no hike in passenger fare and freight charges in the budget that comes ahead of the crucial Lok Sabha polls.

The railways said that most of the amount will be required for doubling of tracks, laying of new lines, gauge conversion, passenger amenities, among others.

“We are focusing on areas such as safety, security and capacity creation. We will utilise funds to make railway system safe. Unmanned crossing was a major cause of concern and we have eliminated them. Budget support has increased by 21.7% and we expect the railway network to be completely electrified by 2022,” Yadav said.

On Train 18, the railways have decided to manufacture 30 more such trains in two years and the government has allocated ₹6,114 crore for manufacturing of different type of coaches.

In the civil aviation sector, the budget has doubled the grant to a special purpose vehicle (SPV), which will take care of the debt of Air India as government is expected to consider selling government carrier if it comes to power again, an official with knowledge of the development said.

To make the offer attractive, the government is planning to reduce the debt burden and government share in the company, which according to them, were the major points for the airline not finding any bidder. In the budget also, government has proposed to give ₹2,600 crore to Air India Asset Holding Limited (SPV), which is doubled than the revised estimate. The SPV will either raise money to clear the debt directly or will pay the monthly debt to lenders on different interest rates.

The government has decided to transfer ₹29,000 crore of the total ₹55,000 crore debt of Air India to SPV.

“Government will continue to support Air India but it will have to show sign of improvements. However, till the new government comes, the money will be pumped in and slowly debt will be transferred to SPV,” said a senior aviation ministry official.

Once the debt is transferred, Air India’s annual interest liabilities will be around ₹1,700 crore per annum against ₹4,400 crore currently.

In his budget speech, finance minister Goyal emphasised on ‘UDAN Scheme’, also known as the Regional Connectivity (RCS) Scheme.

“The number of operational airports has crossed 100 with the commissioning of the Pakyong airport in Sikkim. Domestic passenger traffic has doubled during the last five years leading to large number of jobs being created also,” Goyal said in his budget speech.

Total budgetary support for civil aviation ministry is ₹4,500 crore, of which ₹2,600 crore is for the SPV to take care of Air India’s debt.

The UDAN scheme has been allocated ₹480 crore.

First Published: Feb 02, 2019 13:42 IST

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