New Delhi: At a time when inflation is at the centrestage of the political debate and the middle class is stuggling to keep up with rising costs, railway minister Lalu Prasad offered reasons to cheer as he presented his “pro-poor” budget. Presenting his fourth railway budget, the minister announced an across-the-board cut in passenger fares. The sleeper class fare is to be slashed by 4%, and AC first class fare is proposed to be cut by 3% in the busy season and 6% during the lean season.
Apart from this, the minister announced 32 new trains, including eight Garib Raths — the concessional fare AC trains targetted at the lower class. The minister also said that 800 more bogies would be added to popular trains to ease congestion.
The railway minister said that 300 model stations where passenger amenities of the highest standards will be provided.
As part of his railway budget, the minister also proposed to ease booking of passenger tickets. As per his plan, 6,000 automatic vending machines will be set up and the number of computerised ticket counters will be increased to 8,000 in the next two years from the present 2,200. Apart from this, railway tickets would also be made available at petrol pumps and ATMs.
In another move targetted at the lower class, the railway minister announced that wooden seats in the general compartments would be replaced by cushioned ones.