Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal today presented the Railway Budget 2013-14 with emphasis on safety, comfort and paradigm shift in economics.

Bansal is the first Congress Minister in 17 years to present the Rail Budget.

The cash-strapped Railways had effected an across-the-board 21% passenger fare hike in January this year, aiming to mop up an additional revenue of Rs. 6,600 crore. He had already announced his intention to introduce 100 new trains, including AC double-deckers yesterday.

Reading out his exhaustive budget in the Lok Sabha in English, despite protests from some MPs and some demanding translations, Bansal conceded that losses continued to mount and the Railways needs to be made financially sound through proper planning. “Growth of railways is liked to the growth of country,” he said and added, “Losses on passenger services increased from Rs. 4,955 crore in 2001 to Rs. 22,500 crore in 2011-12 and it is expected to be Rs. 24,600 crore in 2012-13.”

“Many projects are not funded in a time-bound manner,” he said and added that a system to avoid train collisions was being tested. He also claimed that there was a significant decline in the number of accidents — 40% accident and 60% causalities are at level crossings.

“There is inadequate fund for level crossings and 13,000 crossings are still un-manned,” the Railway Minsiter said, adding that 10,797 level crossings will be eliminated. He expressed regret over the deaths of elephants in train accidents.

Conceding that there was a general disappointment among the public regarding cleanliness and hygiene, Bansal said, “Bio-toilets will be provided in trains and more mechanised laundries will be set up for clean linen. In all, 104 stations have been identified for taking up immediate cleaning.”

Speaking about the safety measures for travellers, Bansal said that safety of women will be a priority; 10% reservation will be provided for women in Railway Police Force (RPF) and GRPS will be installed in sensitive areas. Portable fire extinguishers will be provided for coaches and WiFi will be installed in several trains.

Other salient features of the budget are:
• Executive Lounge for Bangalore and 6 other cities;
• 980 Railway Stations have been chosen across the country as model stations;
• 400 lifts and 178 escalators at major Railway Stations;
• Six more water bottling units to be set up for ‘Rail Neer’;
• Upgradation of tracks and distressed bridges;
• Provision for fire and smoke detection on trains and first aid at Railway Stations;
• Electronic boards on trains for displaying stations;
• Ticket booking from 12.30 am to 11.30 pm;
• e-ticketing through mobile phones;
• Access info through websites and mobile phones;
• ISO quality check for all kitchens;
• Aadhar scheme for Railways;
• New tie-ups with food testing labs;
• New number for complaints regarding food – 1800111321;
• New coaches for Shatabadi and Rajdhani.

Courtesy : Star Of Mysore