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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, writes Deepak Razdan.

india Updated: Feb 25, 2006 11:41 IST
Deepak Razdan
Deepak Razdan

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 secondclass fares by 18 and 10 per cent, besides cutting freight rates by 30 per cent.

The "miracle" was the result 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 SaharsaAmritsar 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 'worldclass' passenger amenities and interiors.

Another much-needed step was the special squads on suburban trains to ensure securi ty 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.

Next the minister has proposed a "dynamic pricing policy" for freight and passengers, offering lower rates for nonpeak seasons, non-premium services and on non-busy routes.

With the private sector responding in a big way to the railways' invitation to share its container cargo business, the Railways is going in for more "public-private partnership schemes.. Fourteen applicants have already deposited Rs 540 crores as the registration fee. "

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 plans to construct 500 rail overbridges on a cost sharing basis with the states.

The next year will also 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 11:41 IST