New Delhi: Leaving passenger fares and freight tariffs unchanged, railway minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday unveiled a slew of sops for unorganized sector, women and youth and announced launch of 12 non-stop point-to-point long-distance trains and air-conditioned double-decker coaches for inter-city travel.
In a thanksgiving budget for 2009-10 after the UPA’s return to power, she announced schemes for developing 50 stations as world class stations, upgrading 375 as ‘model’ stations and construction of multi-functional complexes at 50 stations serving centres of pilgrimage, tourist interest and industry.
The complexes will have shopping facilities, food stalls and budget hotels.
Called ‘Izzat’ (dignity), the scheme for unorganized sector will entitle people with monthly income of upto Rs1500 to a monthly season ticket at a paltry sum of Rs25 for travel upto 100 kms. She also announced sops for students of Madrassas and Kolkata by extending concessional travel to them.
For women, Banerjee proposed to run ‘Only Ladies’ EMU trains in Delhi, Chennai and Kolkata on the lines of those in Mumbai during office hours in suburban services. Women RPF personnel would be deployed for security of women passengers in trains.
‘Yuva’ trains - low-cost air-conditioned seated accommodation trains - will be run for the benefit of youth and low-income groups from rural hinterland to metros and cities at a fare of Rs299 upto 1500 kms and Rs399 upto 2500 kms. These will be run on pilot basis as weekly service within three months between Mumbai and Delhi, and Delhi and Kolkata.
The proposals included introduction of 57 new train services, extension of 27 new trains and increase in frequency of 13 trains and making ‘Tatkal’ scheme more user-friendly by reducing the advance booking period from five days to two days and minimum charge from Rs150 to Rs100.
Banerjee, who had been a railway minister in the NDA government, also announced introduction of 12 ‘Duranto’ (quick) trains that will run non-stop from point-to-point. The cities between which these trains will run include Delhi-Jammu, Howrah-Mumbai, Chennai-Delhi and New Delhi-Lucknow.
The Budget estimates for 2009-10 projects a freight loading target of 882 million tonnes, an increase of 49 million tonnes and a 6% increase in the number of passengers.
Gross traffic receipts have been estimated at Rs88,419 crore, which is Rs8,557 crore more than 2008-09.
The minister also announced setting up of a new coach factory at Kanchrapara-Halisahar Railway Complex in West Bengal with annual capacity of 500 electrical multiple units (EMUs) and MEMUs and Metro coaches in joint venture private-partnership mode.
Promising inclusive growth and expansion of rail network to reach development to every corner, Banerjee said the “so-called economically unviable but socially desired projects” will be viewed with social perspective to benefit backward areas and the underprivileged.
An expert committee to advise her is being set up for suggesting innovative financing and implementation of such projects.
She said priority will be given to effect perceptible improvement in cleanliness, quality of railway catering, safety and security and punctuality.
Strict monitoring will focus on extensive availability of ‘janata khana’ (low-cost meals), national and regional cuisines, development of 50 stations as world class stations and upgrading of 375 stations as ‘adarsh’ (model) stations.
Banerjee also announced ‘on-board house-keeping scheme’ to cover 200 additional pairs of trains, improved linen management with modern, mechanised automated laundries and on-board availability of doctors in long-distance trains. Ambulance services would be provided in seven cities to start with.