New Delhi, Feb 24 (UNI) Rail Budget, presented in Parliament today, has many positive features, which would help the Railways sustain the growth momentum and support the overall economic development, Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) President Y C Deveshwar said today, while welcoming the budget as positive and forward-looking.
''The declining operating ratio to 83.7 per cent this year is a good index of judging the financial well-being of the Railways,'' Mr Deveshwar said, and complimented Railways Minister Lalu Prasad for a strong financial performance and improvement in efficiency.
The Chamber stated that the ongoing freight rationalisation has proved to be productive and fruitful and the substantial increase in freight traffic to 668 MT this year, is an indication of the growing industry confidence.
Supporting the continuation of, freight reforms, CII hoped that new initiatives such as freight discount scheme, loyalty discount scheme and non-peak season incremental freight discount scheme, would make the Railways more competitive and a ''freight customer friendly sector.'' The Chamber also welcomed the lowering of freight rates of diesel and petrol by 8 per cent which is expected to ease the inflationary pressure on the economy. However, CII hoped that there would be no increase in freight rates in the course of the fiscal year.
Mr Deveshwar also lauded the new policy to allow private companies to run container trains. ''It has heralded a new era in the history of Railways and the receipt of 14 proposals from the private sector within a month of policy announcement is an indication of a wide scope for Public Private partnership (PPP) in Railways,'' he stated.
The policy, apart from supplementing the efforts of the Railways to provide efficient transport services, would help generate extra revenue to railways, the Chamber added.
One of the key concerns has been the stagnation in capacity augmentation. CII said it was happy to note that the Ministry has taken the proposal of developing a freight corridor, initiated last year forward.
The freight corridor which would be developed in two phases with an investment of Rs 22,000 crore would add a new dimension to the freight movement by Railways in the country, CII said while welcoming the new targets set up this year to complete 1100 km of gauge conversion and doubling of 435 km of track which would enhance the carrying capacity of the Railways.
The new initiative of the Railways aimed to increase capacity by allowing double stack container train in March would be ''revolutionary''.
While the Chamber welcomed a reduction in fares of AC first class by 18 per cent and AC second class by 10 per cent besides the introduction of a fully air conditioned ''Garib Rath'' which would strengthen the Railways capability to meet the growing competition from low cost airlines, it felt that Railways could have used this opportunity to review the cross subsidisation issue and initiate corrective measures.
Expressing overall satisfaction on the Rail Budget, Mr Deveshwar said the Railway Minister has taken a path breaking initiative to promote PPP. The budget has attempted to strike a balance in an adroit fashion by not increasing fares in both passenger and freight segment and at the same time ensuring that adequate resources are available for future growth.
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