Railway Minister Laloo Prasad Yadav on Monday met Finance Minister P Chidambaram to decide on the quantum of central support for the forthcoming Railway Budget.
Yadav was accompanied by senior Railway officials, including Railway Board chairman RK Singh and financial commissioner Vijaylakshmi Viswanathan, when he called on the finance minister.
Laloo has already made public his demand for an increase in the budgetary support to his ministry in 2004-05.
The demand is significant as the Common Minimum Programme of the United Progressive Alliance government has already committed additional investment in the Railways for modernisation, track renewal and safety measures. It said this was necessary as the sector constituted the core of the country's infrastructure.
The minister has also said he was against any hike in second-class and suburban passenger traffic fares. He also said safety would be the top priority of the ministry, and there would be no compromise due to lack of funds. Laloo also promised greater connectivity with remote and rural areas.
The outlay for the Special Railway Safety Fund for this fiscal was enhanced by 16.4 per cent to Rs 2,795 crore (Rs 27.95 billion) from the revised estimate of Rs 2,400 crore (Rs 24 billion). With Prasad's emphasis on safety, the outlay may be increased further.
Former Railway Minister Nitish Kumar, in his Interim Budget, had allocated Rs 8,457 crore (Rs 84.57 billion) of budgetary support for 2003-04, which was 10.4 per cent or Rs 800 crore (Rs 8 billion) higher than the revised estimate of Rs 7,657 crore (Rs 76.57 billion) for the last fiscal.
The gross Plan allocation for the fiscal, including the funds for Railway safety, was estimated at Rs 13,425 crore (Rs 134.25 billion). He had also refrained from hiking passenger or freight fares.For rural connectivity, Kumar had also kept aside an additional outlay of Rs 20,000 crore (Rs 200 billion) for the Remote Area Rail Sampark Yojana, for speedy execution and completion of projects.