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Lalu’s railway budget boasts revenue, eyes polls

Lalu’s railway budget boasts revenue, eyes polls
PTI
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First Published: Fri, Feb 13 2009. 06 32 PM IST

Updated: Fri, Feb 13 2009. 06 32 PM IST
New Delhi: Departing from normal practice, railway minister Lalu Prasad on Friday announced an across-the-board 2% cut in fares of ordinary and AC class in the interim budget for 2009-10.
Presenting the vote-on-account for expenses in the first four months of next fiscal, he also announced reduction in the fares of ordinary passenger trains by Re1 for fares costing upto Rs50 for journey above 10 km.
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The interim budget makes no changes in relation to freight rates.
Normally, the interim budgets do not carry any financial proposals in view of the fact that it is a vote-on-account ahead of the general elections.
Recalling that he had decided to reduce the second class fares of all mail, express and ordinary trains by 5% for tickets above Rs50 last year, Prasad said respecting the aspirations of the long distance passengers he has decided to reduce the second class and sleeper class fares of all mail and express and ordinary passenger trains by 2% for the ticket costing more than Rs50.
Also Read: Interim Railway Budget Speech (PDF)
He said during the last four years, he had reduced the fares of AC first class by 28% and AC II tier by 20%.
Even as air travel is reportedly reflecting reduction in number of passengers due to economic slowdown, there has been a significant increase in the number of passengers of these classes on the railways.
“Therefore, I have decided to reduce the fares of AC first class, AC II tier and AC III tier and AC chair car by 2% ,” he said amidst thumping of desks by members of ruling benches in the Lok Sabha.
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The Minister said since the fare for rail travel for 10 km and below has already been reduced from Rs4 to Re1, this reduction will not be applicable for second class rail journey upto 10 km.
He announced introduction of 43 new trains and extension of services of 14 others. Frequency of 14 trains has also been increased.
In the wake of his visit to Japan, Germany and France to see the running of trains at speed between 300 and 350 km per hour, Prasad said action is on for examining feasibility of running bullet trains between Delhi-Amritsar, Ahmedabad-Mumbai-Pune, Hyderabad-Vijayawada-Chennai, Chennai-Bangalore, Ernakulam and Howrah-Haldia.
Action would also soon be started for conducting a pre-feasibility study to run bullet trains between Delhi and Patna.
Surveys for 14 new lines, gauge conversion of three and doubling of eight railway lines are proposed to be undertaken.
The budget estimates for 2009-10 project a freight loading target at 910 million tonnes -- an increment of 60 million tonnes on 2008-09 -- and the number of passengers is likely to grow by 7%.
Gross traffic receipts (GTR) is estimated at Rs93,159 crore, an increase of Rs10,766 crore over revised estimate of 2008-09.
Ordinary working expenses have been budgeted at Rs62,900 crore to cover the full year impact of Sixth Pay Commission recommendation and the payment of 60% arrears due in 2009-10.
Dividend payable to general revenues has been kept at Rs5,304 crore at the current applicable rates. Budgeting ratio has been pegged at 89.9% and annual plan outlay for the next year envisages an investment of Rs37,905 crore.
The budgetary support from general revenue has been proposed at Rs9,600 crore excluding Rs1,200 crore to be received from the Central Road Fund.
The internal and extra budgetary resource component would accordingly comprise 72% of the annual plan.
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Recalling performance of the Railways in the last five years under his stewardship, Prasad said the organisation scaled a new pinnacle every year without imposing any burden on the common man.
The railways are set to establish the historic landmark of earning a cash surplus before dividend of more than Rs90,000 crore in five years.
“The same Railways which faced a paucity of funds for replacement of over-aged assets in 2001 and which had to defer payment of Rs2,800 crore as dividend to general revenues, have now surprised the whole world with a historic financial turnaround,” he said.
Speaking about the revised estimates for 2008-09, he said during this period freight loading and earnings registered a growth of 9% and 19% respectively. The passenger earning increased by 14%.
However, in October and November, the growth in freight loading was adversely impacted by the recession in the international markets. There was a steep reduction in iron ore for export and container traffic. Steel traffic also reflected a decreased growth, resulting in a decrease in freight loading and earning in October-November.
He said the situation in December-January reflected some improvement and hoped that the budget targets for passenger and goods earnings set for the current year will be surpassed.
Prasad also said the first train service in Kashmir valley commenced between Anantnag and Rajwansher during the year, to be extended to Baramulla and Qazigund.
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First Published: Fri, Feb 13 2009. 06 32 PM IST