NEW DELHI, Feb 1 - Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Wednesday proposed to allocate Rs 131,000 crore as capital and development expenditure for the Indian Railways during fiscal 2017-18.
The Union Budget emphasised on providing railway passengers with better amenities and more safety, as Jaitley announced a special �Rail Safety Fund� of Rs 1 lakh crore, which was earlier announced in 2002 by the Atal Behari Vajpayee government.
This is the first time that expenditure, fiscal support and various sector-specific schemes for the Railways was announced in the Union Budget. The decision to merge the standalone Railway Budget with the General Budget was taken by the Union Cabinet last year.
�For 2017-18, the total capital and development expenditure of the Railways has been pegged at Rs 131,000 crore. This includes Rs 55,000 crore provided by the government,� Jaitley said, presenting the Union Budget 2017-18.
�Among other things, the Railways will focus on four major areas � passenger safety, capital and development works, cleanliness, and finance and accounting reforms.�
He said the �Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh (Railway Safety Fund) will be created with a corpus of Rs 1 lakh crore over a period of five years... Besides seed capital from the government, the Railways will arrange the balance resources from their own revenues and other sources.�
The minister elaborated that the Railways will eliminate all the unmanned level crossings by 2020 � one of the major reasons for train accidents in India. �Expert international assistance will be harnessed to improve safety preparedness and maintenance practices,� Jaitley said.
The minister informed the Parliament that new railway lines of 3,500 km will be commissioned in 2017-18 as against 2,800 km in 2016-17. �Steps will also be taken to launch dedicated trains for tourism and pilgrimage,� he said.
Emphasising on the station redevelopment, Jaitely said that at least 25 stations were expected to be awarded during 2017-18 for station redevelopment. �(Some) 500 stations will be made differently abled friendly by providing lifts and escalators,� he added.
The Finance Minister proposed to feed about 7,000 stations with solar power in the medium term to save energy. �A beginning has already been made in 300 stations. Works will be taken up for 2,000 railway stations as part of 1,000 MW solar mission,� he said. � IANS