It was another Railways budget free of any hikes in either passenger fare or freight rates , leaving a big question mark on how resources are going to be raised to provide for the ambitious Rs 57,630 crore outlay for the coming fiscal.
But the minister claimed the money would come from the Gross Budgetary Support of Rs 20,000 crore , diesel cess of Rs 1,041 crore, internal resources of Rs 14,219 crore and market borrowings of Rs 20,594 crore. One would have to see how the railways are able to service the debt accruing from market borrowings with no hike in passenger or freight rates.
The Railway Minister said that external source of financing through Public Private Partnership (PPP), Wagon Investment Scheme (WIS) etc is expected to yield Rs. 1,776 crore.
Committing expansion of the rail network, she said, Railways proposed an allocation of Rs. 9,583 crore for new lines, Rs. 5,406 crore for doubling the lines and Rs. 2,470 crore for gauge conversion projects. To overcome shortages in wagons, coaches and locomotives, Rs. 13,820 crore has been earmarked for acquisition of rolling stock.
She proposed introduction of 56 new Express Trains, 3 new Shatabdis and 9 new Duronto Trains during 2011-12, besides 47 additional suburban services in Mumbai and 50 new suburban services for Kolkata. AC double-decker services will be introduced on Jaipur-Delhi and Ahmedabad-Mumbai. Services of 33 trains would be extended while frequency of 17 trains would be extended. 107 new line surveys would also be taken up during the year.
The Minister also proposed to set up a 700 MW gas-based power plant at Thakurli in Maharashtra for energy requirement of the Railways. She said that 18,000 Wagons will be procured during 2011-12 for better freight management. As a unique initiative for the welfare of the poor the Minister proposed construction of 10,000 shelter units for track side dwellers in Mumbai, Sealdah, Siliguri, Tiruchirapalli on pilot basis.
The Minister proposed extension of concessions for physically handicapped persons in Rajadhani and Shatabdi Trains. Now Press correspondents will also be entitled to avail 50 % concession with family twice in a year instead once in a year. At present the concession for senior citizens is extended to both men and women at 60 years of age, the Railway Minister proposed to reduce the age to 58 years in the case of women, besides increasing senior citizens concession from 30% to 40%.
The Railway Minister proposed a non-lapsable fund for socially desirable projects under the name of ‘Pradhan Mantri Rail Vikas Yojana’. She also proposed an increase of Rs. 771 crore to connect the underdeveloped areas of Orissa, Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, Bihar and Maharashtra through rail network. A non-lapsable Fund for Railway projects in the northeast region has also been proposed and all the state capitals of the region except Sikkim will be connected by railway network in the next seven years.
Stating that safety is the first priority, the Railway Minister said that Anti Collision device (ACD) will be deployed on more routes, covering eight zonal railways. As a special incentive to states ensuring trouble-free train running for the whole year, such states would rewarded with two new trains and two projects.
The ministers’ announcement regarding improvement of amenities to the passengers at stations is laudable as also the new scheme of a Multi-purpose pan-India smart card “Go India” to provide single window package for seamlessly pay for tickets for long distance, suburban, metro traveling. The passengers can use this card at booking counters, vending machines, internet etc.
Besides this a new portal for e-ticketing will be launched shortly. Booking of tickets through this portal would be cheaper with a charge of only Rs. 10 for AC classes and Rs. 5 for others. The Minister also proposed a new Super AC class of travel with improved comfort and features and more exclusively. A feasibility study would be undertaken to increase the speed of passenger trains to 160-200 kmph with the help from Japan, she said.
Stating that the Indian Railways is passing through difficult financial phase, she said that, 6th Pay Commission’s Recommendations have heavily impacted internal resource generation of the Railways. Disruption of train movements during 2010-11 resulted in a loss of about Rs.1,500 crore and another Rs. 2000 crore due to the ban on export of iron ore. As a result, the loading target had to be reduced by 20 million tonnes to 924 million tonnes. However, in the revised estimates, goods earnings have been retained at the budget level based on trends of higher yield per Net Tonne Kilometer (NTKM).
The total gross earnings have now been fixed at Rs. 94,742 crore which is Rs. 177 crore higher than the budget. With the reduced traffic suspense clearance of Rs. 98 crore , Gross Traffic Receipts is higher than the budget target by Rs. 75 crore at Rs. 94,840 crore.
On the basis of freight traffic projection of 993 million tonnes and passenger growth of 6.4% the Minister said that the Gross Traffic Receipts are estimated at Rs. 1,06,239 crore during 2010-11 which will cross the one lakh crore mark for the first time. While Working Expenses are estimated at Rs. 96,450 crore.