In a thanksgiving budget, Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday proposed no increase in passenger fares or freight tariff while announcing a slew of measures including launch of 12 non-stop point-to-point long-distance trains and air-conditioned double-decker coaches for inter-city travel.
Presenting the Budget for 2009-10 in the Lok Sabha, the first after the United Progressive Alliance's return to power, she also announced concessions for unorganised sector by proposing monthly season ticket of Rs 25 for people with monthly income of up to Rs 1,500 for travel up to 100 km.
Her proposals included introduction of 57 new train services, extension of 27 new trains and increase in frequency of 13 trains and making 'Tatkal' scheme more user-friendly by reducing the advance booking period from five days to two days and minimum charge from Rs 150 to Rs 100.
The sops also covered students of Madrassas to whom concessions will be extended. Concessional monthly season tickets to students in Kolkata will be applicable for travel in the Kolkata Metro Rail also.
The Budget estimates for 2009-10 projects a freight loading target of 882 million tonnes, an increase of 49 million tonnes and a 6 per cent increase in the number of passengers.
Gross traffic receipts have been estimated at Rs 88,419 crore (Rs 884.19 billion), which is Rs 8,557 crore (Rs 85.57 billion) more than 2008-09.
Ordinary working expenses have been budgeted at Rs 62,900 crore (Rs 629 billion) to cover the full year impact of the Sixth Pay Commission and payment of arrears due in 2009-10.
Dividend payable to general revenues has been kept at Rs 5,479 crore (Rs 54.79 billion) while the Railways have got an additional budgetary support of Rs 5,000 crore (Rs 50 billion).
Announcing 'landmark' initiatives, Banerjee said that dedicated freight corridors have been declared as 'Diamond Rail Corridors' while foundation was being laid for development of Eastern Industrial Corridor along side the Eastern Freight Corridor.
Railway land banks will be set up to catalyse development in the corridors.
The Minister announced setting up of a new coach factory at Kanchrapara-Halisahar Railway Complex in West Bengal with annual capacity of 500 electrical multiple units (EMUs) and MEMUs and Metro coaches in joint venture private-partnership mode.
She also proposed introduction of "Only Ladies" EMU trains in Delhi, Chennai and Kolkata suburban during office rush hours and 'Yuva' trains which will be new low-cost air-conditioned seated accommodation trains dedicated to youth and low-income groups.
They will run from rural hinterland to major cities and metros on fares ranging from Rs 299 up to 1,500 km to Rs 399 up to 2,500 km. Weekly service on pilot basis will be introduced within three months between Mumbai-Delhi and Delhi-Kolkata.
While the concessional monthly season ticket pass for the unorganised sector has been named 'Izzat' (dignity), the 12 non-stop point-to-point train services have been named 'duranto' (quick).
Promising inclusive growth and expansion of rail network to reach development to every corner, Banerjee said the "so-called economically unviable but socially desired projects" will be viewed with social perspective to benefit backward areas and the underprivileged.
An expert committee to advise her is being set up for suggesting innovative financing and implementation of such projects.
She said priority will be given to effect perceptible improvement in cleanliness, quality of railway catering, safety and security and punctuality.
Strict monitoring will focus on extensive availability of 'janata khana' (low-cost meals), national and regional cuisines, development of 50 stations as world class stations and upgrading of 375 stations as 'adarsh' (model) stations.
Construction of multi-functional complexes will be undertaken at 50 stations serving centres of pilgrimage, tourism and industry. They will have shopping facilities, food stalls and budget hotels.
Banerjee also announced 'on-board house-keeping scheme' to cover 200 additional pairs of trains, improved linen management with modern, mechanised automated laundries and on-board availability of doctors in long-distance trains.
Ambulance services would be provided in seven cities to start with.
On board infotainment services will be provided in important long distance inter-city trains while toilet facilities will be introduced in Diesel Electrical Multiple Unit and MEMU trains with journey time of more than two hours.
The budget also proposed opening of 1000 new passenger reservation locations and expansion of unreserved ticketing system from 5,000 to 8,000 locations. Automated ticket-vending machines will be installed at 200 large and medium-sized stations.
Taking ticketing to 'ma maati manush' (mother, land and people), Banerjee said issue of computerised tickets at post offices and mobile ticketing service vans was being considered.
As a measure of enhancing safety and security, she said there will be timely track renewal, modernisation of signals and use of digital ultrasonic flaw detectors. Integrated security scheme will be introduced in 140 vulnerable and sensitive railway stations and women RPF squads will be deployed for security of women passengers.
In freight and parcel business, the minister said premium service for container movement with assured transit time was being considered. Private ownership of special purpose rolling stock for commodities and private operation of freight terminals will be encouraged.
Mega logistic hubs are being planned along side eastern and western dedicated freight corridors.