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All eyes on Bansal for today’s Rail budget

All eyes will be on railway minister Pawan Kumar Bansal on Tuesday on whether he yields to pressure of hiking passenger fares yet again or looks at other measures to mobilise resources to offset the burden of the recent diesel price hike.

Bansal had on 22 January hiked passenger fares across-the- board after the Railways faced a loss of about Rs 25,000 crore in the passenger segment.

Railways had aimed to mop up an additional revenue of Rs 6,600 crore but the fuel hike had wiped out Rs 3,300 crore, Bansal had said.

The rail minister held several round of discussions with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, finance minister P Chidambaram and the Planning Commission in connection with the Rail Budget. He is also understood have discussed the possibility of fare hike with Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

However, sources said a section of the Congress is not inclined towards effecting another round of fare hike as general elections are not far away.

Bansal is all set to announce a slew of passenger-friendly measures such as improvement in catering service, maintaining cleanliness at rail premises, introducing Braille stickers in coaches for visually-challenged passengers and development of stations in his maiden Rail Budget.

While there are possibilities of minor tinkering in freight rates despite resistance from the industry due to the slow economy growth, there will be some announcements of freight schemes to attract more loadings in the next fiscal 2013-14.

With Bansal heading Rail Bhavan and the key ministry back with the Congress party after almost one-and-a-half decade, speculation is rife about announcement of 100 new trains including AC double deckers, extension and increase of some popular passenger services.

Though the Congress is opposing the Trinamool government in Bengal, MoS Railways Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury might have his say with likely provisions for new trains including Berhampur- Sealdah passenger, a direct train for New Jalpaiguri from the capital and pantry cars for Bengal-bound trains.

While the focus of the Budget is on providing more amenities to rail users,Bansal will initiate certain steps to earn more revenue from the alternative sources such as commercial utilisation of surplus railway land, advertising and other sundry business.

Since high-speed train is the latest buzz in Railway Ministry, there will be a few proposals for it in the Budget.

Aiming to put rescue and restoration work on fast track, the Rail Budget 2013-14 is set to announce procurement of two high-speed self-propelled accident relief trains (SPART).

With a speed of 160 km/hr, the SPART will enable rescue equipment to reach the accident site faster and help speedy rescue and restoration work. The Ministry is going ahead with the proposal for setting up Rs 1,000 crore MEMU (Mainline Electric Multiple Unit) coach factory in Rajasthan to cater to the growing demand of faster local and suburban service.


NITISH ASKS BANSAL TO COMPLETE PENDING RAIL PROJECTS IN BIHAR


Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar put forth his wish list before Union Railway minister Pawan Kumar Bansal today and asked him to make provision for completing various pending projects in Bihar.

‘All railway projects proposed in Bihar were meant to be executed in a time frame, but that did not happen,’ Kumar, who was himself the Railway minister in Atal Bihari Vajpayee cabinet, said.

He asked Bansal to run some more trains from various destinations in Bihar, including Patna, to places like Delhi and to other states in view of the rush of passengers. Kumar also emphasised on measures for railway safety, renewal of tracks and signal system that he said he had started during his reign a decade ago.
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