Railway budget for the year 2015 was presented in the Parliament today by the Union Railway Minister Mr Suresh Prabhu. Prima-facia, this railway budget, unlike its predecessors, looked far more futuristic and goal oriented. Although, a timeline has not been put to the goals and the promises that were put forward by the Railway Minister, but it would be interesting to see how the ministry goes ahead in implementing all the goals and delivering on the promises made.
Common man’s deterrents
1. Better ticketing facilities
- Advanced Booking Time: The timeline for the advanced booking of tickets has been modified from 2 months to 4 months, thereby making sure that the tickets can now be booked 120 days in advance instead of 60 days.
- Operation Five Minutes: A new scheme of selling tickets aimed at reducing the ticket buying time to 5 minutes with the use of automatic vending machines.
- Concessional e-tickets: Plan to sell concessional e-tickets to passengers with disability after a one-time registration on the e-ticketing portal.
Perspective: Looks to be a good move for a country where IRCTC receives more hits in a minute than what Flipkart does in an entire day. A 5 minute ticket would get the number of passengers traveling without ticket down by a great extent.
2. No hike in rail fare
- There is no hike in the rail fare, which comes as a welcome news for the passengers.
Perspective: In 2012-2013, the railway fare was initially introduced for all the classes, but was later rolled back for the second class. Later, in 2014 also, passenger fare was increased by 14.2% and the freight fare was increased by 6.5%. In the light of the previous increases, ‘no hike’ in rail fare comes as a welcome news for the passengers.
- 24×7 Helpline Number: An all-India number of 138 to become the 24×7 helpline number for the passengers to attend to their problems in a real-time basis.
- Mobile Application: A mobile application to redress Railway-related complaints being developed, railways intend to start this facility on a pilot project basis on Northern Railway from March 1, 2015.
- Security Helpline: The Nirbhaya fund to be used to start a security helpline on 182 for receiving security related complaints.
Perspective: Although having separate helpline numbers for grievance addressing and security complaints is good, but it again boils down to the implementation part of the process. What would be interesting to know is how the railways wants to make sure that the action items, after being received by it on these helplines, is addressed. Until then, it would just be like creating castles in the sky.
- e-Catering: This has been introduced from January on 108 trains on an experimental basis to cater to different taste of the passengers.
- Base Kitchens: Base Kitchens to be started in specified divisions to serve high quality food.
Perspective: I happen to have traveled a lot on the Konkan route in a long-haul train as I traveled between my college in Manipal and my hometown Bhopal. The catering services of the pantry car in trains is pathetic, to say the least. If e-catering can bring a positive change to it, it would be a happy news for all those taking long-haul trains frequently.
5. Mobile Phone
- Charging points: Number of charging points to be increased in various category of coaches in the trains.
Perspective: Comes as good news to all the techie and the student community. More charging points to charge laptops 🙂
6. Improved stations
- Wifi: All A1 and A category stations to have free and open WiFi is being provided. Plan to provide this on category B stations as well.
- Retiring rooms: Booking of retiring rooms to be started on IRCTC website.
- Lifts and escalators: To be provided at all major stations.
Perspective: Good. At-least the stations that do not have ramps for the over-bridges need to have something to address the problems of the passengers.
- Department: A new department to be created to take care of cleanliness in trains and on stations.
- Toilets: New toilets to be constructed in stations. Bio-toilets to replace the existing toilets in coaches.
- Dustbins: Non-AC coaches to have dustbins.
Perspective: Creating departments is not going to magically solve the problem of cleanliness. Although the passengers need to be aware about cleanliness, but again, there have been instances where the toilets of the trains were not clean even at originating stations. How setting up a new department can solve this is beyond comprehension.
8. Faster Trains
- The average speed of trains to be increased substantially to facilitate overnight travel between major cities.
Perspective: Looks to be a welcoming news for all those who are working and are bound to take flight instead of trains to save a few hours of daytime due to shortage of leaves.
- Trains to have more coaches to take care of additional passengers and increase the capacity of the Railways.
- Plan to replace all coaches with LHB designed coaches.
Perspective: Looks like a little less people would be having status ‘Waiting’ after they book a ticket 😀
- On-board entertainment: Pilot project being started by the Delhi Division of the Indian Railways to provide on-board entertainment facility in Shatabdi express.
Perspective: This is a step that can re-define the Indian Railways. On-board entertainment, if implemented in all trains, would become a major USP for the Indian Railways.
This is a budget which can be called as the ‘Budget of the future’. This era is a defining era for India on the global arena. India is competing hard to come in-line with the developed nations of the world. At this time, such a budget brings in a ray of hope into the large masses who use Indian Railways as their primary means of commute across the nations. All the futuristic goals, that the Railway Minister presented in the Parliament, if completed and implemented in the coming couple of days, could bring up Indian Railways at-par with the best Railway systems in the world.