New Delhi: Reorganize, restructure and rejuvenate: That’s the railway minister Suresh Prabhu’s mantra to revive revenue flow for the cash-strapped national carrier.

Faced with depleting income and increasing expenses, the railway budget 2016-17 was expected to be a tight-rope walk.

However, the minister kept fares unchanged and tried to cheer everyone with promises of improved amenities and better travel experience, thereby creating more direct and indirect employment opportunities.

In an effort to improve the ease of doing business, the minister also proposed to make the tender process in railways paperless.

For the common man, Prabhu announced a new train—Antyodaya Express, a fully unreserved superfast train to be operated on dense routes. He also proposed adding two to four Deen Dayalu coaches in some long-distance trains for unreserved travel with drinking water facilities.

To improve travel experience, the minister introduced sale of tickets through hand-held terminals and ticket cancellation through helpline number 139 by using a one-time password.

The technology-friendly minister plans to introduce information boards in trains to list on-board services and also GPS-based digital displays inside coaches to provide information regarding halts.

To clean the coaches, passengers just need to send a text message. The railways also plans to introduce 30,000 bio-toilets.

For the industry, the good news is the proposal to develop three dedicated freight corridors—Delhi-Chennai, Kharagpur-Mumbai and Kharagpur-Vijayawada. Ten goods sheds will be developed by Transport Logistics Company of India (TRANSLOC) in the next fiscal year, the minister said.

Prabhu also announced 44 new projects, with greater focus on public-private partnerships.

“Rail budget directionally covers all aspects of the five year transformation programme covering customer experience, safety, capacity augmentation and financial stability," said Jaideep Ghosh, head of the transport and logistics at consultancy firm KPMG.

Taking into account the long-pending demand of loco-pilots, the minister proposed to provide air-conditioning and toilets in all new train engines.

The railway porters will be from now on called sahayaks and not coolies. They will be provided with new uniforms and will get special training to improve their soft skills.

Close