Highlights of Railway Budget 2008-09

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New Delhi, Feb 26 : Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav presented his fifth and last budget today. The Minister announced a surplus Balance Sheet for the year 2007-08.

Following are some of the highlights of the Railway Budget:

Operating Ratio at 76 per cent

Cash surplus of Rs 25,000 crore in Financial Year-2008

Reduced fares increased volumes and profits

Railway fund balance up at Rs 20,480 crore

Additional Rs 2000 crore earnings on freight services

Revenue from passenger fares up by 14 per cent

April-December freight loading revenues up 8-10 per cent at Rs 34,700 crore

Issuance of wait-listed e-tickets to be allowed

Tickets through mobile phones on the anvil

By 2009, call centre based inquiry services to be unveiled

15,000 Railway ticketing counters in next 2 years

Railways to invest Rs 4,000 crore to introduce discharge-free green toilets in 36,000 coaches

Railways to start production of stainless-steel coaches this year.

Railways to invest Rs 75,000 crore to upgrade infrastructure over the next seven years

To set up 20,000 kilometres high density network.

Freight loading up by 8.2 per cent in the first 9 months of 2007-08

Revenue from passengers fare increased 14 per cent in 2007-08

30 big stations to have multi-level parking

50 big stations to get lifts and escalators

New coaches in all Rajdhani Express trains from 2010

To start making steel coaches from FY 09 and introduce them from FY 10

Indian Railways runs over 14,000 trains a day and cutting fares would help tackle price pressures and woo voters ahead of general elections next year. The Government wants to build up the railways to meet the demands of the fast growing economy that is currently moving at 8.7 per cent.

Last year, Lalu had cut freight rates for a string of fuels and minerals by between 5-6 per cent, and outlined plans to modernise the century-and-a-half-old network, one of the worlds largest.

The State-run network's earlier reputation for red tape and inefficiency saw it losing freight traffic to trucks and passengers to a fleet of new, cut-price air carriers.

According to analysts, the rail network now has a cash surplus of nearly 2.5 billion dollars.

In the last two years, the railways has been innovative in its bid to make profit, by introducing competitive bidding for catering to leasing out advertising space on railway buildings, stations and some trains.

The Railway Ministry is trying to increase its share of freight by cutting costs and turnaround times, appealing to businesses frustrated by the slow movement of goods.

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