New Delhi, Feb 24 (UNI) Railway Minister Lalu Prasad today said 2006 will be be the "Year of Passenger Service with a Smile." "Mun me bhav seva ka, hotho par muskan, Behtar seva wazib daam, rail ki hogi yeh pehchan," he said, while presenting the Railway Budget for 2006-07 in the Lok Sabha.
To this end, Mr Prasad announced a strategy to shrink long queues in booking counters and improvement and provision of modern facilities for passengers.
With a view to encouraging more persons to avail of i-ticket and e-ticket, the charges leviable on e-tickets have been reduced by Rs 20 per ticket in higher classes and Rs. 15 per ticket in sleeper class. Passengers can buy i-ticket and e-ticket through Rail Travel Service Agents also.
In a new endeavour, the Railways is to introduce a pilot project to install 200 automatic ticket vending machines in Mumbai suburban area of Central and Western Railways. These machines will be connected with the UTS and will dispense tickets automatically through smart cards.
He said the Passenger Reservation System (PRS) will be operational in all 1310 centres and 425 UTS centres by end of the current year.
To make unreserved tickets available, the Railways have formulated a Jansadharan Ticket Booking Scheme. Under this scheme pre-paid UTS counters will be made available to unemployed youth.
Under the Gramin Ticket Booking, service agency will be given at roadside stations to unemployed rural youth for issuing tickets.
These two schemes for unemployed youth will be in identified stations on pilot basis.
To further improve passenger amenities for the 16 million crore passengers who use the Indian Railways everyday, the Minister announced that funds will not be a constraint.
To begin with all A and B category stations are to be developed as stations with modern passenger amenities. Modern facilities such as ATMs, Cyber Cafes etc. will be provided at all major stations speedily.
A pilot project to upgrade retiring rooms, waiting rooms, station buildings and lavatories under public-private partnership is on.
This is to be expanded.
Mr Prasad announced rationalization of passenger and freight tariff structures AC first class and AC second class fares have been reduced by 18 per cent and 10 per cent respectively with a view to sharpen the competitive edge of the Railways.
The Minister also announced a fully air conditioned Garib Rath to be run on a pilot project basis between Delhi-Patna, Delhi-Mumbai, Delhi-Chennai and Saharasa-Amritsar. The fares on these trains will be about 25 per cent lower than the present AC-3 tier fares.
The LHB design passenger coaches currently used in the Lucknow-New Delhi Shatabdi Express and Mumbai-New Delhi Rajdhani will be extended to the Patna and Sealdah Rajdhani and some more Rajdhani and Shatabdi trains.
World-class passenger amenities and interiors are to be provided in four popular trains: Hazrat Nizamuddin-Gwalior Taj Express, New Delhi-Patna Sampoorn Kranti Express, Chennai Bangalore Vrindavan Express and New Delhi-Barauni Vaishali Express.
IRCTC has been entrusted with the responsibility of providing all passenger amenities in Mail and Express passenger trains. The Corporation will award license through open bidding to provide all services including catering, bedroll and maintain cleanliness of trains and toilets.
UNI SH/KAS SS PC1545