Friday, February 25, 2011

No hike in railway fares, sops for Bengal

The 2011-12 Railway Budget presented by Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday saw no increase in passenger fares, 56 new trains and a clear focus on election-bound West Bengal, where her party, the Trinamool Congress, will be hoping to unseat the long-ruling Left Front government.

Apart from announcing no hike in passenger fares, Banerjee also cut booking rates for non-AC and AC tickets by Rs 10 and Rs 5 per ticket respectively.

Among the new trains that will be introduced, the Duronto (non-stop) trains will be introduced in 9 routes, including Allahabad-Mumbai, Pune-Ahmedabad, Sealdah-Puri, Madurai-Chennai, Chennai- Thiruvananthapuram and Mumbai Central-New Delhi routes. Playing up to expectations of commuters in metropolitan cities, she also extended 32 new services for the Kolkata Metro, nine additional services for the Chennai suburban service and pushed for strengthening the Hyderabad suburban rail network. She also said frequency of 17 trains will be increased while introducing 3 new Shatabdis (Pune-Secunderabad, Jaipur-Agra and Ludhiana-Delhi) and double-decker AC trains on Jaipur-Delhi and Ahmedabad-Mumbai routes. To cater to the metropolitan commuters, a new 'Go India' smart card ticket will also be launched.

Though she came under Opposition attack for her splurge on Bengal, Mamata Banerjee announced Metro coach factories in Singur and Kolkata, track-making industry to be set up in Uluberia and a rail industrial park in Nandigram.

Giving a boost to safety measures that were badly needed for the Railways, she declared that all unmanned railway crossings will be scrapped. Further, she said more anti-collision devices will be commissioned for South and South-Central zones.

Expanding on plans for the Railways, she said the rail network to be extended by 700 km. One of the biggest gainers of this rail budget would be Manipur which will be connected to the rest of India by rail. The state has also been allotted a diesel locomotive centre. She also announced a new bridge factory in Jammu and Kashmir. The Railway Minister said the government undertaking will also open 442 new stations by March next year.

Giving a list of the Railway budgeting, she said the entire exercise seeks to allot Rs 57,630 crore to the Railways. While earnings are set to exceed Rs 1 lakh crore, Rs 9,000 crore would be spent on new lines and Rs 13,000 crore would to be spent on rolling stock. Explaining drains on the budget, she said the enhancement of employee benefits by the Sixth Pay Commission added Rs 73,000 crore to expenses in the last financial year.


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