Railway Minister Mallikarjun Kharge in his interim Budget on Wednesday is expected to introduce more trains, including premium services between key destinations, and spruce up passenger amenities but leave fares untouched in the run- up to the polls.
Railway Board sources told Mail Today that Kharge, who has "actually not much to offer in the crucial election year in terms of projects to states due to Railways' poor financial health, will, at least, introduce trains and stations to give a populist tinge" to the Budget.
Kharge is likely to announce 20 premier trains with dynamic fares as a step to arrest the fall in passenger revenue. He is also expected to provide some relief to passengers from the impending fare hike in April due to implementation of fuel adjustment component (FAC). Besides, Kharge will make a pitch to complete all pending announcements made by the Congress- ruled Rail Bhavan in the last Budget. The Railways has failed to meet their freight and passenger revenue targets during the April- December 2013 period.
While freight earnings are short by about Rs 850 crore, the gap in passenger revenue is about Rs 4,000 cr. This is despite the hike in fares in the last one year. To make matters worse, the Railways has started losing passenger traffic to improved highways and luxury bus services.
There will be a special mention about safety and security of passengers, and Kharge is expected to announce passengerfriendly measures like installation of upgraded real- time train information system at stations and operation of automatic ticket vending machines at many stations.
The minister will make a strong pitch for boosting investment in big infrastructure projects like high- speed train corridors and dedicated freight corridors.
The interim Budget will also focus on electrification of more routes. The Railways is likely to take up about 1,500 km route for electrification in the next fiscal. Currently, only about 24,000 km is electrified out of the total 65,000- km route. The areas of concern which would need a mention in the interim Budget will be falling share in cargo traffic.
Courtesy: Mail Today