NEW DELHI, Feb 25 � Sparing the passenger and industry from fare and freight hikes yet again, Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday presented the rail budget for 2011-12 with the highest investment of Rs.57,630 crore ($12.7 billion), 68 new trains and a vow to build a stronger railroad infrastructure based on the Vision 2020 document.
From more money for safety and several industrial parks under the public-private model, to new coach factories and concessions for women and even journalists, Banerjee sought to address all constituencies, especially her poll-bound home state of West Bengal.
Apart from new trains, the budget sought to extend the services of 33 trains, increase frequencies of 17 others, conduct 107 line surveys to identify new routes, start double-decker trains on Jaipur-Delhi and Ahmedabad-Mumbai routes and introduce super AC class.
The budget also sought to extend the concession to physically challenged people to all Rajdhani and Shatabdi trains, make 50 percent concession for media persons and families twice a year, and hike the rebate to senior citizens from 30 percent to 40 percent.
Also to be launched is a multi-purpose pan-India smart card �Go India� for seamlessly pay for tickets for long distance, suburban and metro trains. A new portal for e-tickets will levy a lower charge of Rs.10 for airconditioned and Rs.5 for other classes.
And what does West Bengal, in particular, get: A new metro coach factory at Singur, 15 new suburban trains and 34 new Metro services for Kolkata. Several of the new trains, extensions and enhanced frequencies also pertain to her home state.
�We have taken a two-pronged approach. On the one hand, building sustainable, efficient, rapidly-growing railways. On the other, having an acute sense of social responsibility towards the common people,� Banerjee told the Lok Sabha.
�In this budget we have attempted to combine a strong economic focus with an equivalent emphasis on social inclusion with a human face,� she said in her 90-minute speech which was her fifth such personal exercise as railways minister.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was among the first to laud his Railway Minister�s effort. �It is a common man�s budget without increase in freight and passenger fares. It will help weaken cost push element of inflation,� the Prime minister told reporters.
�The Railway Minister has done a commendable job.�
The latest rail budget also comes against the backdrop of the Assembly elections due soon in the home State of the Railway Minister, whose Trinamool Congress has set its eyes on forming the next government in the State, ousting the Left-led rule of over three decades.
Mid-way into Banerjee�s speech, Opposition members, especially those from the Rashtriya Janata Dal, Samajwadi Party and the Bharatiya Janata Party, were up on their feet, protesting what they said was undue attention to West Bengal.
But Banerjee was equally fiery. �I am proud of my State. I�ll do whatever possible for West Bengal along with what I�ll do for other States of my country.� This led to some disruptions, forcing the minister to stop her speech on several occassions.
In the previous two rail budgets for the United Progressive Alliance government (UPA), Banerjee had announced 57 new trains in 2009-10 and another 54 a year later, without altering the freight or passenger tariff rates.
Indian Railways, the world�s second largest under a single management, has a network of 64,099 route km to ferry as many as 18.9 million passengers on 7,000 trains daily from 6,906 stations. It also runs 4,000 freight trains to carry 850 million tonnes of cargo.
The Railway Minister said the ministry�s gross traffic receipts were expected to cross the Rs.100,000-crore ($22.5-billion) mark for the first time ever this fiscal, based on freight traffic projection of 993 million tonnes and passenger growth of 6.4 percent.
l No hike in passenger fare and freight rates.
l Highest ever Plan outlay of Rs 57,630 crore proposed for Railways.
l Rs. 9,583 crore provided for new lines.
l 1300 km new lines, 867 km doubling of lines and 1017 km gauge conversion targeted in 2011-12.
l 56 new Express Trains, 3 new Shatabdis and 9 Duronto trains to be introduced.
l AC Double Decker services on Jaipur-Delhi and Ahmedabad-Mumbai routes.
l New Super AC Class to be introduced.
l A new portal for e-ticketing to be launched shortly.
l Booking charges will be cheaper with a charge of only Rs 10 for AC classes and Rs 5 for others.
l Pan-India multi-purpose smart card �Go India� to be introduced.
l 236 more stations to be upgraded as Adarsh Stations.
l 47 additional suburban services in Mumbai and 50 new suburban services proposed for Kolkata.
l Two new passenger terminals in Kerala and one each in Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal proposed.
l Feasibility study to raise speed of passenger trains to 160-200 kmph to be undertaken.
l A special package of two new trains and two projects for the states managing trouble free run of trains through out the year.
l Anti Collision Devise (ACD) sanctioned to cover 8 zonal railways.
l GPS Based �Fog Safe� Device to be deployed.
l All unmanned level crossing up to 3000 to be eliminated.
l All India Security Help line on a single number set up.
l All state capitals in the North-East except Sikkim to be connected by Rail in next seven years.
l A Bridge Factory in J & K and a state-of-art Institute for Tunnel and Bridge Engineering is proposed at Jammu.
l A Diesel Locomotive Centre will be set-up in Manipur.
l A Centre of Excellence in Software at Darjeeling proposed under the aegis of CRIS.
l Rail Industrial Parks at Jellingham and New Bongaigaon proposed.
l Additional mechanised laundry units to be set up at Nagpur, Chandigarh and Bhopal.
l 700 MW gas-based power plant to be set up at Thakurli in Maharashtra.
l 18,000 Wagons to be procured during 2011-12.
l A scheme for socially desirable projects, �Pradhan Mantri Rail Vikas Yojana� with non-lapsable fund proposed.
l 10,000 shelter units proposed for track side dwellers in Mumbai, Sealdah, Siliguri, Tiruchirapalli on pilot basis.
l Concession to physically handicapped persons to be extended on Rajdhani and Shatabdi trains.
l Concession of 50 per cent to press correspondents with family increased to twice a year.
l Senior Citizens concession to be hiked from 30 per cent to 40 per cent.
l Medical facilities extended to dependent parents of the Railway employees.
l Scholarship for girl child of Group-D railway employees increased to Rs 1200 per month.
l 20 additional hostels for children of railway employees to be set up.
l Recruitment for 1.75 lakh vacancies of Group �C� and �D� including to fill up backlog of SC/ST initiated, 16,000 ex-servicemen to be inducted by March 2011.
l A separate sports cadre to be created.
l 2011-12 declared �Year of Green Energy� for Railways.
l Freight loading of 993 MT and passenger growth of 6.4 per cent estimated for 2011-12.
l Gross Traffic Receipts at Rs 1,06,239 crore, exceeding one lakh crore mark for the first time estimated.
l Ordinary Working Expenses assessed at Rs 73,650 crore.