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Interim Rail Budget: No increase in passenger fares and freight

New Delhi, Feb 12 (ANI): No increase in rail fare and freight has been proposed in the Interim Rail Budget for 2014-15.

Presenting the Budget in Parliament today, Railway Minister Mallikarjun Kharge announced 72 new trains, extension of three trains and increase in frequency of three trains.

The Minister announced that there will be no more unmanned crossings. A Rail Tariff Authority has also been announced. A number of measures for safety and security of passengers like portable fire-extinguishers in coaches and induction based cooking in pantry car have been proposed in the Budget.

The Budget presented today envisages investment of Rs. 64,305 crore as against Revised Estimates for 2013-14 of Rs. 59,359 crore. Anticipating a healthier growth of economy, the freight traffic target is proposed at 1,101 million tonnes, an increment of 49.7 million tonnes over the current years' revised target of about 1052 million tonnes.

The Gross Traffic Receipts have been projected at Rs. 1,60,775 crore . Working Expenses have been proposed at Rs. 1,10,649 crore, which is Rs. 13,589 crore higher than the Revised Estimates for the current year.

Highlighting the passenger friendly initiatives of Indian Railways, the Minister said the success of e-booking of tickets has surpassed all expectations, and now train movements can also be tracked online to find the exact location and running. Besides, 51 Jan-Ahaar outlets for sale of Janta Meals have been set up; 48 passenger escalators have been commissioned at railway stations and 61 more are being installed and air-conditioned EMU services will commence in Mumbai area by July 2014.

He also announced that Itanagar, capital of Arunachal Pradesh will soon be on rail map in this financial year, as Harmuti-Naharlagun line is expected to be commissioned shortly. The state of Meghalaya is also all set to come on the Railway map in this financial year, as Dudhnoi - Mehendipathar line is getting completed by March 2014.

Briefing about Railways efforts for moderation of its network, Kharge said a joint Feasibility Study for Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed corridor, started in December 2013, will be completed in 18 months. Besides the High Speed project, Indian Railways also intend to explore low cost options for raising speeds to 160-200 kmph on existing select routes like Delhi-Agra and Delhi-Chandigarh.

He said that Investment in Railways is being stepped up by partnership with the private sector.

"PPP projects related to rolling stock manufacturing units, modernisation of railway stations, multi-functional complexes, logistics parks, private freight terminal, freight train operations, liberalised wagon investment schemes and Dedicated Freight Corridors are in the pipeline. Apart from attracting private investments from domestic investors in rail sector, a proposal is under consideration of the Government to enable Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to foster creation of world class rail infrastructure," he added.

Reiterating Railways' commitment or safety and security of passengers, he said several measures have been and are being taken for its further strengthening. Manning or elimination of all unmanned level crossings has been taken up and planning for induction of indigenously developed Train Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) and provision of Vigilance Control Device (VCD) in all electric and diesel locomotives is being introduced.

He said that a Comprehensive Fire and Smoke Detection System is on trial on two rakes of Rajdhani Express trains. This will be extended to all major passenger trains. Provision of portable fire extinguishers in AC coaches, Guard-cum-luggage break vans, pantry cars and locomotives. Introduction of electrical induction based cooking appliances in replacement of LPG in pantries is being taken up.

With a view to improving aesthetic ambience along the track close to the approach of major stations, Kharge announced creation of 'Green Curtains' at Agra and Jaipur stations on pilot basis. He said that bio-toilets have been introduced in about 2,500 coaches. It is proposed to increase the coverage progressively.

Kharge said given the promising trend of loading, the target has been scaled up to about 1052 million tonnes from the budget target of 1047 million tonnes and freight earnings targets revised to Rs 94,000 crore.

He announced that an independent Rail Tariff Authority is being set-up to advise the Government on fixing of fares and freight. (ANI)

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