Interim rail budget today: High populism expected

New Delhi, Feb 12: Busy giving finishing touches to the interim rail budget, Railway Minister Mallikarjun Kharge was today tight-lipped about the likely contours of the document which he is to present on Wednesday in Parliament. "You will come to know tomorrow," was his response to repeated queries on whether it would be a passenger-friendly budget with a possible cut in fares.

The interim budget will be his maiden one and Kharge would be hard-pressed to reach out to all sections with populist measures in an election year. Facing a revenue shortfall, Kharge may not bring about a reduction in basic passenger fares although he is likely to make changes in the fuel adjustment component so that its impact on ticket prices is minimum. He is likely to announce more trains, new lines and better passenger amenities in the interim budget. The emphasis will be on introducing premium trains on 20 high-passenger density routes.

Kharge will become the 4th minister in 4 years to present the railway budget

Encouraged by the success of the New Delhi-Mumbai AC premier train, for which fares were charged under a dynamic structure, the minister may announce as many as two dozen premier trains. The Mumbai premier train fetched railways about 35 percent more revenue than the regular Mumbai Rajdhani. Kharge could also announce semi-high speed trains on the busy Delhi-Mumbai corridor, the survey work for which has been carried out jointly with Japan. The interim budget is expected to lay a thrust on the completion of the pending projects which are deemed viable.


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