Millennium Post

Rail Budget focuses on passenger amenities

Rail Budget focuses on passenger amenities
In a first of its kind Railway Budget, Union Rail Minister Suresh Prabhu on Thursday announced a slew of measures to give a boost to passengers’ amenities. Facilities such as SMS alert service to inform passengers in advance the updated arrival/departure time of trains at starting or destination stations, installation of CCTV cameras in ladies’ coaches, mobile phone charging facilities in unreserved class coaches, Wi-Fi at stations are among the major announcements made by Prabhu in the Rail Budget on Thursday.

For passengers, a new toll free number – 138 and a women helpline 182 have also been announced apart from launching a scheme to make available unreserved tickets within five minutes under ‘Operation Five Minutes’ plan through vending machines. The minister has also taken special care of senior citizens and differently-abled by announcing additional berths in each train and they would be allotted lower berths only.

Apart from these, the Minister also announced to enhance the train capacity. “More berths would be made available with the increase in number of coaches to meet the growing demand for confirmed seats on trains,” Pabhu said during post-rail budget press meet. On the question as how the ministry would achieve this target, the minister said, “We will achieve the target through efficient utilisation of assets. Trains, which are fully patronised throughout the year, will be augmented with additional coaches from trains which have relatively lower occupancy levels.”

“To ensure safety of women passengers, surveillance cameras would be installed provided on a pilot basis in selected mainline coaches and ladies’ compartments of suburban coaches without compromising on privacy,” Prabhu said while presenting the first railways centric budget. The railways would utilise resources from the Nirbhaya Fund for augmenting security of women passengers, Prabhu added. The minister also talked about coaches fitted with bio-toilets. So, far the ministry has replaced the existing toilets with 17,388 bio-toilets, while plans are on to replace another 17,000 toilets.

The budget also talked about introduction of e-catering facility in trains for passengers to select their meals from an array of choices, including local cuisine. According to Prabhu, the ministry has opened e-catering service in 108 trains on an experimental basis from January this year. Passengers can avail this service through IRCTC website at the time of ticket booking, but Millennium Post failed to get a reply from ministry officials as who will be held responsible if a passenger gets stale food (through online booking). Apart from this, there are other unanswered questions as what measures the ministry has taken to deal with monopoly of food-chain suppliers such as Comesum, which is owned by Rajiv Mittal. It’s worth mentioning that Mittal’s food chain is supplying foods in most of the trains.

In addition to these amenities, lifts and escalators have been planned at major stations to facilitate easy movement of the elderly and differently-abled passengers. “An amount of Rs 120 crore has been provided for this purpose which is about 76 per cent more than the final allotment in the current year. Also, all newly-manufactured coaches will henceforth be Braille enabled,” the minister said.

Budget futuristic, passenger centric, says prime minister

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday termed the Rail Budget as “futuristic” and “passenger centric” and said it lays out a clear roadmap to make the national transporter the key driver of the country’s economic growth. “RailBudget2015 is a forward looking, futuristic & passenger centric budget, combining a clear vision & a definite plan to achieve it,” he tweeted. He said the budget is a watershed moment for Railways, marking a paradigm shift from discussing coaches & trains to comprehensive railway reform. “I am particularly delighted that for the 1st time there is a concrete vision for technology upgradation & modernisation of the Railways,” he said in another tweet.
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