Lalu to present Railway Budget 2008-09

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New Delhi, Feb 26: Railway Minister Lalu Prasad is all set to present his fifth people-friendly Railway Budget today in the Parliament. Aiming for a populist budget, Lalu confirms that the Budget was made keeping 'aam admi' in mind.

Lalu who in the past 4 years made a drastic turnaround of the Railways is keen to have final go at it. Lalu would be presenting his Budget with the confidence that the freight target of 785 million tonne will not only be achieved but also exceeded. Here are some pointers to look forward in this Railway Budget 2008-09:

- Passenger fares are unlikely to go up.

- A marginal fall in the AC-2 and AC-3 tier ticket prices and a substantial 2 to 5 pc fall in general compartment rates

- Expect at least 4 new railway lines in his home state and 13 new lines in all.

- Finance Ministry has asked Lalu to set aside at least Rs 9,000 crore for the pay hike.

- The freight charges, like last year, will be rationalised.

- More Garib Raths likely this year

- Finance Ministry may scale down Rail budgetary support

- 150 more trains, escalators for Mumbai stations

Lalu may be required to budget around Rs 9,000 crore in 2008-09 since the pay commission's report will be implemented, he will save a little on dividend payment, which was budgeted at Rs 4,572.54 crore in 2007-08.

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 Prasad 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 world's 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 Rail 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.

ANI

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