New Delhi, March 17: The Railway Budget for 2015-16 was approved by the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday with Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu making a strong pitch for greater investment in the railways.
Replying to the debate in the house, Prabhu said his estimate of Rs.8.5 lakh crore worth of investment over the next five years in the railways was lower than what had been previously estimated by the Planning Commission and the previous government.
He said the railway were facing a vicious circle caused by under-investment in them for a very long time. The minister said the railways were losing out to roadways as greater investment has been made into the latter.
Earlier, Rajya Sabha members -- irrespective of party-affiliations -- expressed concern over railway safety, security and infrastructural challenges especially lack of basic facilities for passengers.
Members also questioned the government's plans to raise financial resources to be invested in the railways and asked for an investment timeline.
On March 12, the Lok Sabha had passed the Railway Budget for 2015-16.
The railway budget, presented in the Lok Sabha on Feb 26, proposed various new initiatives and investment plans for infrastructure creation. The budget allocated an 84 percent higher investment in railway projects.
New projects for doubling, tripling, quadrupling and electrification of railway lines was proposed. It was also proposed to make available Wi-Fi service facility at 400 stations.
Funds for passenger amenities were increased by 67 percent for lifts and escalators to facilitate movements.
Other facility such as online booking of wheelchair for senior citizens, differently-abled and patients at select stations were also proposed.
Water vending machines to be installed at stations and the facility of pre-ordering food online through Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) was also announced.