New Delhi: Even as Railway Minister Lalu Prasad continued reading through the Railway Budget 2008 in a high decibel voice, he found it tough to quieten the disappointed MPs, who created a ruckus over non-allocation of new trains in their respective constituencies, leading to the adjournment of the Lok Sabha till 3 p.m. by Speaker Somnath Chatterjee Tuesday.
In his budget speech, the minister announced the introduction of 53 new trains. Among the prominent declarations, the New-Delhi to Jammu Tawi express train would ply daily while the Salsa-Amritsar Garib Rath has been upgraded to a tr-weekly service. The Bagalkota-Jaswantpur train has been made a daily train while the present once in a week Kurla-Howrah train would travel bi-weekly.
The Bhubaneswar – Mumbai Express would be a bi-weekly from now while the Bangalore to Coimbatore train has been extended to Ernakulam.
Allocating funds to the laying of new tracks, the minister said an amount of Rs1,730 crore would be spend for the purpose in the coming financial year. So far, 155 km new tracks have been laid already in FY08. The Indian Railways have also chalked out a proposal to spend Rs650 crore on metro transport projects, Lalu Prasad informed the Parliament.
On the fare front, the union minister announced the reduction of fares across the board in all classes. The minister declared a 50% reduction in fares for senior women citizens.
Freight fare on diesel and petrol would see a reduction of 5%, the minister said.
Focusing on the absorbing policy of the Indian Railways, Lalu Prasad informed the House that 99% backlog vacancies for SC/ST are filled. To give a fillip to locomotive building, the minister said the railway would invite tenders for new loco plants under PPP model.
Claiming that the Indian Railways have fared better than the top private firms, Lalu Prasad said the turnaround for FY2007-08 has recorded a surplus of Rs25,000 crore.
The railway minister informed the Parliament that the freight traffic target of 785 million tonnes crossed to touch 790 million tonnes. The plan size increased from Rs11,000 crore to Rs30,000 crore in the last four years during the tenure of the United Progressive Alliance government at the Centre, said the minister.
Talking about infrastructure development in the Indian Railways, Lalu Prasad said 560 railway station platforms would be lengthened to take long trains with increased amenities for women and old passengers. The minister announced that the middle-level and low-level platforms would be upgraded to high-level platforms in several stations to help commuters, particularly the senior citizens. Facilities of escalators and lifts are planned at 50 major stations for disabled passengers, the minister said. There would also be multi-level parking planned at 30 major stations across the country.
Keeping in view the increased rail traffic in the country, the doubling of lines would be given priority, the minister declared. Work on automatic signalling would soon start in new sections, Lalu Prasad informed the House. The railway would produce stainless steel coaches only, the minister added.
With an aim to reduce serpentine queues in Railway Reservation Centres, the railway plans ticket vending machines in residential areas. To make information quick and clear, the minister promised display boards in the coaches of Mail/Express trains.
Speaking on the environmental awareness of the Indian Railways, the minister announced that green toilets would be provided in all railway coaches at a cost of Rs4,000 crore. Cleaning and maintenance of running trains would be outsourced, Lalu Prasad said.