April 1 is upon us, bringing the start of the new proposed budget. Obviously the Railway budget is in effect starting today. So we take a look at the Railway budget of 2015.
First things first, no new trains were announced and there are no hikes in passenger feed. This was an anticipated move since hiking the fares could lead to public dislike. The advance booking time has also been increased to 120 days(4 months), as compared to the previous 60 days(2 months). A central 'Railway Display Network' will also be deployed starting in 2000 stations to provide information on trains.
One interesting announcement was the 'Operation 5-minute' initiative, which allows people without tickets to acquire them within 5 minutes of entering the station. This will really make acquiring tickets easier.
The 'Aadarsh Station Scheme' will be brought to 200 stations for the provision of basic amenities like drinking water, toilets etc. Also, the 'Swachh Rail Swachh Bharat' programme includes hiring professional cleaning agencies to train staff and keep the stations clean. The programme will also include setting up toilets in 650 stations replacement of 17000 old toilets with bio-toilets.
Toll free lines are also introduced. 138 is for the helpline and 182 for security issues. Mobile phone charging ports will be included in general coaches in increased in Sleeper classes. Wi-fi will be provided in 600 stations, which also include B-category stations. CCTV cameras will be installed in women's coaches and other select coaches for security reasons. Shatabdi's will include with entertainment systems on-board. Wheelchairs can be booked by Senior Citizens and Physically challenged citizens.
In the next 5 years, 138000 km of tracks will be laid along with the replacement of many unmanned railway crossings with over/under bridges. Semi Highspeed trains will be introduce in 9 corridors which will go upto a speed to 200 km/h. Announcement for the push of better connectivity between Jammu & Kashmir and North-East India has also been done.
The railways will raise Rs.17655 crores from it's two companies IRFC and RVNL. Rs.17276 crores will be raised by IRFC through rolling stocks while RVNL will raise the rest through market borrowing.
This year's Railway budget sounds really promising, but many people have been skeptical. Exactly how the money will be raised is still not well known as the Finance Minister has been quite vague at this. We will have to wait and see how well the budget is implemented and whether all the goals set will be completed before the next year's budget announcement.