Kharge announces new trains and hi-tech solutions for passengers’ conveniece.
Rail minister Mallikarjun Kharge presented the interim rail budget today which, surprisingly, had some very good points. Although, he marginally increased the freight loading target from last FY’s 1,047 million tonnes to 1,052 million tonnes, and managed to sow thorns for the next government as he proposed a 4.6 percent hike for the next year which may show in the fare.
But it is just an interim budget and the passengers should be good with what he has given them now. Before listing out his sops, let us first thank the Telangana protestors inside the parliament because of whom Kharge had to talk business rather than wasting everybody’s time by delivering a long and boring speech.
Here are the takeaways from the budget which are good news for the passengers:
- No passenger fare hikes: We do not need to say much about it as it was seriously a budget presented on the election eve. Also, there have been substantial changes in the fare over the period of five years.
- New Premium Trains: 17 new premium trains, 38 Express Trains and 10 Passenger Trains have been proposed. This will offer more options to the passengers who find it hard to get a reservation in festival season.
- Gift for Mumbai local train travelers: Mumbai will finally get its first air-conditioned local train by July 2014. After start of the monorail, this will be another attractive feature of Mumbai on wheels.
- More convenient stations: 48 escalators at various train stations have become operational, 61 more have been sanctioned to ensure the convenience of the passengers.
- Linking North-East: Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya will finally be on railway map as Indian Railways will finally connect to Itanagar, the capital of Arunachal Pradesh with the Harmuti-Naharlagun line to be commissioned shortly. Meghalaya will also be connected by March 2014 with the Dudhnoi – Mehendipathar line.
- Safety measures: Keeping in view the multiple fire incidences in trains a Comprehensive Fire and Smoke Detection System, which is already on trial on two rakes of Rajdhani Express trains, has been announced. Portable fire extinguishers too will be provided in AC coaches, guard-cum-luggage vans, pantry cars and locomotives.
- More pleasant railway terminals: The “aesthetic ambience” of the rail terminals along tracks close to major stations will be improved. The railways will create ‘Green Curtains’ at Agra and Jaipur stations to start with.
- Hi-tech solutions: Important trains will have a Passenger Information Display System to indicate the next station and expected arrival time. Cash accepting Automatic Ticket Vending Machines will be installed at stations. Ticketing on mobile phones in the unreserved segment will be allowed. In addition to that, online booking of retiring rooms at all important stations and booking of meals on trains for selected en-route stations will also be launched.
- Trains to Vaishnodevi: Trial runs of trains on the Udhampur-Katra line have begun and will be operational shortly.