Railways enters mobile age, fare hike trick in budget

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New Delhi, Feb 26: To put the near bankrupt railways on rails, Pawan Kumar Bansal today spoke of 'paradigm shift in policies', which seem to be addressing more to the urban population without much resource mobilisation measures.

Presenting the railway budget minister Bansal touched on the passenger amenties, mainly reservation and cleanliness aspects. However, apart from 5 percent increase in freight rates and slew of public-private participation (PPP) initiatives, the minister has not addressed the railways' revenue pool as it spends major revenue on wages.

Full text of Railway Budget

But the minister has played tricks on the public by indirectly increasing the fares through hike in reservation and other allied charges. "There are number of charges which have not been revised for the last several years. These charges are in the form of compensation for cost actually incurred by railways in rendering relevant services. I propose to effect marginal increase in some of these. These include supplementary charge for super fast trains, reservation fee, cancellation charge and tatkal charge," Bansal said.

Pawan Kumar Bansal

The minister has revised reservation charges and for AC-III class it would be Rs 40 per ticket (from Rs 25). The charges for AC-I and AC-II class would be doubled from Rs 25 to Rs 50 per ticket. In the January fare hike, Bansal had adopted a fare method that saw increasing the burden of a long-distance traveller.

Among the measures for the urban passengers are:

* E-ticketing through mobile phones. Next generation e-ticketing system by end of this year.

* Internet booking to be provided from 0030 hours to 2330 hours.

* Transparency in sale of tickets.

* Free Wi-Fi facility to be provided in select trains.

* Air-condition coaches proposed.

* Special A/C coaches 'Anubhuti', to be introduced in select Shatabdi and Rajdhani trains to give excellent ambience with commensurate fare.

* SMS alert service being rolled out shortly to intimate passengers about reservation status.

* 72 additional suburban services in Mumbai and 18 in Kolkata.

* Identification of 104 stations for upgradation in places with more than one million population and of religious significance.

* Rs.100 crore for improving stations in Delhi area.

To remove delay in e-ticketing

Bansal acknowledged that congestion on the IRCTC website causes inordinate delay in accessing the system for e-ticketing, he announced that by the end of this calendar year railways will put in place a next generation e-ticketing system.

The system shall be able to support 7200 tickets per minute as against 2000 tickets per minute today. The system will support 1,20,000 simultaneous users at any point in time against the present capacity of 40,000 users. It will have the capability to easily scale up as demand increases in future.

"I plan to roll out a more efficient and people sensitive railway service system. Some of the measures initiated or put are extending availability of the facility of internet booking from 12:30 AM to 11:30 PM, making e-ticketing possible through mobile phones," Bansal said in his maiden railway budget speech.

Emphasis on passengers amenities

* Identification of 104 important stations for immediate attention to all aspects related to cleanliness.

* Progressive extension of bio-toilets on trains.

* Provision of concrete aprons on platforms with mechanized cleaning facilities.

* Extension of On Board Housekeeping Scheme and Clean Train Stations to more stations and trains.

* Extension of Unreserved Ticketing System (UTS), Automatic Ticket Vending Machines (ATVMs), Coin-operated Ticket Vending Machines (CO-TVMs) and schme of Jan-Sadharan Ticket Booking Sevaks (JTBSs).

* Setting up of six more Rail Neer bottling plants at Vijayawada, Nagpur, Lalitpur, Bilaspur, Jaipur and Ahmedabad.

* Pilot project on select trains to facilitate passengers to contact on board staff through SMS/phone call/e-mail for coach cleanliness and real time feedback.

* 8-10 more mechanized laundries for quality washing of linen.

* Provision of announcement facility and electronic display boards in trains.

* Upgrading another 60 stations as Adarsh Stations in addition to 980 already selected.

* Associate voluntary organizations for providing first aid services at railway stations.

* 179 escalators and 400 lifts at A-1 and other major stations to be installed facilitating elderly and differently-abled.

* Affixing Braille stickers with layout of coaches including toilets, provision of wheel chairs and battery operated vehicles at more stations and making coaches wheel-chair friendly.

* Curbing malpractices in reserved tickets including tatkal scheme.

* Third party audit and tie up with food testing laboratories for food quality control; ISO certified state-of-the-art base kitchens to be set up in railway premises.

* Centralized Catering Services Monitoring Cell set up with a toll free number (1800 111 321).

* Common rail-bus ticket to be introduced for Katra-Vaishnodevi pilgrims.

* Executive Lounge at Bilaspur, Visakhapatnam, Patna, Nagpur, Agra, Jaipur and Bengaluru.

 Investment proposals

* Rs 1 lakh crore to be raised from public-private partnership, Rs 1.05 lakh crore through internal resources in the 12th Plan.

* Elimination of 10,700 unmanned level crossings targeted during the Plan; no more new such crossings to be created.

* Railways set to enter 1 billion ton freight club of China, Russia and US.

* New coach manufacturing and maintenance facilities to be set up in various places including Rae Bareli, Bhilwara, Sonepat, Kalahandi, Kolar, Palakkad and Pratapgarh.

* Rs 9,000 crore investments expected including Rs 3,800 crore in port connectivity and Rs 800 crore in iron ore mines connectivity.

* Railway Energy Management Company to be set up to harness solar and wind energy.

* 47,000 vacancies for weaker sections and physically challenged to be filled up soon.

* Indian Railway Institute for Financial Management to be set up at Secunderabad to train rail officers on a regular basis.

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