All stops are out for the aam aadmi
FOR YET another year running, the Railway Budget does not propose either fare hike or increase in freight rates. Instead, for the year 2006-07,Railway Minister Lalu Prasad has cut AC first class and second-class fares by 18 and 10 per cent, besides cutting freight rates by 30 per cent.india Updated: Feb 25, 2006 12:33 IST
FOR YET another year running, the Railway Budget does not propose either fare hike or increase in freight rates. Instead, for the year 2006-07,Railway Minister Lalu Prasad has cut AC first class and second-class fares by 18 and 10 per cent, besides cutting freight rates by 30 per cent.
The "miracle" was the offshoot of the boom in the freight business. Growing at 10 per cent, freight revenue has been Rs 5000 crore this year. It has allowed the railways to remain true to its "mantra" of reducing unit costs and sharing gains with customers.
Accordingly, there are 55 new trains being planned; 37 are being extended and the frequency of 12 is being increased. The aam aadmi is getting four air-conditioned, but affordable, long-distance Garib Raths. These will run on the Delhi-Patna, Delhi-Mumbai, Delhi-Chennai and Saharsa-Amritsar routes. Their fares would be 25 per cent lower than the present AC-3 tier fares.
Four popular trains — Hazrat Nizamuddin-Gwalior Taj Express, New Delhi-Patna Sampoorna Kranti Express, Chennai-Bangalore Vrindavan Express and New Delhi- Barauni Vaishali Express — are being upgraded with 'world-class' passenger amenities and interiors.
Another much-needed step are the special squads on suburban trains to ensure security for women passengers. The Rajdhanis will reach destinations faster and 200 stations would have longer platforms to accommodate longer trains. The free upgradation of lower class passengers to higher classes is being extended to all Rajdhanis and Mail/Express trains from Friday.
Conceding the popularity of Net ticketing, booking charges have been reduced and ATMs, cyber cafes are being provided at all major stations.
The minister has proposed a "dynamic pricing policy" for freight and passengers, offering lower rates for non-peak seasons, non-premium services and on non-busy routes.
The private sector is responding in a big way to the railways' invitation to share its container cargo business, and 14 applicants have already deposited Rs 540 crores as registration fee. This has encouraged the railways to go for more "public-private partnership schemes."
State governments, local bodies, ports and the private sector have been invited to invest in more rail projects. Some of these would be offered through open bidding. The railways would construct 500 rail overbridges on cost sharing basis with the States.
The next year will see the manufacture of the largest number of wagons. There will be 25 per cent increase in wagon manufacture for the railways' own needs, while thousands of wagons would be required by the wagon investment scheme and container train operators.
Total loading this year is expected to be 668 million tonnes against the targeted 635 million tonnes.
First Published: Feb 25, 2006 12:33 IST