New Delhi, Mar 11: Railway Minister Lalu Prasad today announced a new train between Kolkata and Dhaka to strengthen the ties between India and Bangladesh and step up people-to-people contact.
The "Maitri" Express would begin its service from April 14 this year, Mr Prasad said while replying to the general discussion on the Railway Budget for 2008-09 in the Lok Sabha. He said a new railway line linking Sriperumbudur, where former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated, was under consideration of the government. A survey for the project would begin soon.
Mr Prasad announced a new train between Agra and Ajmer and another between Kanpur and Jammu. He also announced increase in the frequency of a few trains, including the Rajendra Nagar-Jammu express.
Seeking to allay the fears of some MPs that the efforts were being made towards privatisation of the Indian Railways, the Minister asserted that the core sector of the Indian Railways would not be privatised. "The railways would have been privatised had we followed the NDA policies." Referring to the proposed Dedicated Freight Corridor Project, Mr Prasad said tenders had already been floated and the work would be started once this process was completed.
He said the Railway Ministry had received accolades from all quarters for its stellar performance in the past four years when the transport behemoth had made profit without effecting any hike in the fares.
Mr Prasad said the Indian Railways had made a surplus of Rs 25,000 crore already. "The figure will be Rs 100,000 crore when I complete my present term as Railway Minister," he said, amid applause from the treasury benches.
He said he had not improved the health of the Indian Railways with the help of a magic wand, but through measures aimed at increasing the efficiency of the infrastructure and the system which were already in place. "I have also treated the 1.4 million employees of the Railways as members of one family." After the Minister's reply, the House passed the Demands for Grants on Account in respect of the Railway Budget for 2008-09.