No hike in passenger fare likely

Jan Sadharan Express trains to several destinations will be introduced.

india Updated: Feb 19, 2006 12:45 IST

Riding high on a revenue surplus this fiscal, the Rail Budget for 2006-07 is likely to slash freight rates by 20 per cent but leave passenger fares untouched.

The Rail Budget will introduce common man's superfast Jan Sadharan Express trains to several destinations.

The budget to be presented by Railway Minister Lalu Prasad on February 24 is widely expected to contain a slew of measures to improve passenger amenities and safety to benefit "Aam Aadmi" (common man) as the year 2006-07 is being declared as "year of passenger".

The new initiatives will include introduction of Jan Sadharan Express trains along the lines of Jan Sampark Kranti introduced last year and upgradation of about 400 Express/Mail trains as Superfast to meet the growing needs of the people across the country.

The Railway Minister himself had indicated on several occasions that there may not be any hike in passenger fares.

Rather his concentration and priorities would be to provide more facilities to its consumers, more particularly the "Aam Aadmi" (common man) he has not ruled out cheaper AC trains for them.

Asked specifically as to what would be the message of the Rail Budget 2006-07, the Minister has said "Railway is now the preferred choice for travellers.... Railway is growing faster than the national economy".

Indicating what the 2006-07 Railway budget would be, Prasad had said "we have to do a great deal in improving our performence in 'touch and feel' areas.

We should try to win the hearts of our esteemed passengers by setting new standards of punctuality, cleanliness, lights, safe drinking water and quality food among other things.

"They (passengers) should feel safe, secure, homely and comfortable. We should work with a smile and imbibe a caring and helping attitude towards passengers," Prasad said.

"Let us celebrate 2006 as the year dedicated to passenger service with a smile and make every pasenger feel the difference," Lalu added.

A number of Jan Sadharan Express trains are likely to be introduced to connect metros and big cities providing comfort travel to "Aam Aadmi" at affordable fare.

The Railway Minister may also announce upgradation of facilities including bed-rolls and pantry cars for the second class sleeper passengers.

The Budget may also embark on an ambitious scheme to increase number of coaches from the exisiting 14 in most of the trains to 24 in at least 258 trains.

The Minister said the launch of the first phase of the ambitious Rs 60,000 crore 'Dedicated Freight Corridor Project' between Delhi-Mumbai and Delhi-Kolkata would be one of the main highlights of the 2006-07 Rail Budget.

The first phase of the dedicated corridor linking Delhi-Mumbai and Delhi-Kolkata would cost approximately Rs 22,000 crore.

"Under the scheme, we are already laying third line between Delhi-Mumbai and Delhi-Kolkata to facilitate faster movement of goods in these sector," he said.

The proposal for the corridor has already been cleared by the Planning Commission and the Infrastructure Committee headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The corridor, along the Golden Quadrilateral, is expected to connect the four metros and the major ports of the country.

Work on the other sections -- Kolkata-Mumbai, Kolkata-Chennai, Chennai-Mumbai and Delhi-Chennai -- was planned in the second phase, they said.

The Ministry has already announced an "automatic upgradation scheme" for all the Rajdhani trains from February 6.

The Budget 2006-07 may also implement Passenger-Profile Management Scheme under which a bogie can be added or deleted from trains depending upon the demand.

The Minister may also announce a 'Frequent Traveller Scheme' in the budget which will facilitate the frequent Railway Passenger to get 'Bonus Points' for travel.

It has been a turnaround story for the Indian Railways, which has increased its revenue surplus from a mere Rs 359 crore in 2000-01 to Rs 7,800 crore in 2004-05.

Ministry sources said the key strategy had been to reduce passenger losses and an enhanced carrying capacity of wagons to reduce unit cost of freight to generate surplus revenue.

The Capital Fund of the Railways, which had become virtually defunct eight years ago due to poor revenue generation, would now be revived, they said.

The significance of the turnaround lay in the fact that the finances increased without necessitating a hike in passenger and freight fares in 2004-05 and 2005-06.

First Published: Feb 19, 2006 11:37 IST