New Delhi: Rail Minister Suresh Prabhu in his budget speech announced a slew of passenger friendly measures such as better ticket booking facilities and more general coaches for the benefit of travellers. Also in line with expectations, no hike in rail fares was announced.
Announcing multiple measures that are meant to improve passenger comfort Prabhu said, “We will throttle tout menace by increasing ticket booking time. We will raise reserved ticket booking window to 120 days versus 60 days now.” “We will ensure quick availability of passenger tickets. Also unreserved passengers can book tickets in 5 minutes,” he said.
Apart from this he said that Rs 120 crore will be spent to install lifts and escalators at major stations. Prabhu also said that more general class coaches will be added to benefit travelers.
Stressing on need to enhance customer experience, Prabhu in his budget speech said that Railways will hike allotment for passenger amenities by 67%.
Outlining his vision for Indian Railways, Suresh Prabhu in his budget speech talked about four main goals that PM Narendra Modi government will work on to get railways out of its abysmal state.
“We want to work on these four goals; to deliver a sustained improvement in customer experience; make railways a safer means of travel; modernise infrastructure of railways and expand capacity and finally make railways financially self-sustainable,” Prabhu elaborated.
Prabhu announced a 247 helpline for Indian Railways. “An all India 247 helpline 138 will be effective from 1/3/2015; Toll free No. 182 for security complaints,” Prabhu said.
Even as he chose to remain silent on freight in his speech and said he will keep passenger tariff unchanged, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu Thursday sought to hike goods rates on a host of items between 2.1 percent and 10 percent in his maiden budget, to garner 13.5 percent additional revenues on this count.
“Then freight structure for the Base Class-100 has been proposed to be increased by 10 percent,” an explanatory statement on freight, appended with the budget documents showed, indicating the hike sought in the most basic goods such as salt for human consumption.
The minister also proposed to reduce the number of classifications to ascertain freight rates, as also rationalise the distance slabs — a move that will see freight revenues jump from Rs.106,927 crore as per the revised estimates for this fiscal to Rs.121,423 crore.
Looking at some of the specific commodities, the revision in the class of freight and the tariff works out to 2.7 percent higher for cement, 6.3 percent for coal, 0.8 percent for iron and steel, 10 percent each for grain, pulses, urea and 0.8 percent for kerosene.
But in some cases there has ben a marginal cut as well – such as 1 percent for high speed diesel, and 0.3 percent for limestone, dolomite and manganese.
“Keeping in view the buoyant trend of freight loading during the course of the year, the revised target of freight loading for 2014-15 has been retained at the budget estimate level of 1,101.25 million tonnes,” said the explanatory statement on the budget.
The increment for 2015-16 has been kept to just 85 million tonnes.