No hike in fares or freight rates in Railway Budget

budgetThere will be no increase in passenger fares and freight rates in the coming year. This was announced when Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu presented the Railway Budget for the coming year 2016-17.

Three new superfast trains have also been introduced. ‘Tejas’ trains which will run at a speed up to 130 km per hour and have wifi services on board in addition to entertainment and local cuisine, were announced. ‘Humsafar’ trains were also launched. These two trains will ensure cost recovery through tariff and non-tariff measures.

Meanwhile ‘Uday’ trains will be an overnight double-decker along with ‘Utkrishit’ double-decker air-conditioned yatri express on the busiest routes.

The Railway minister also announced the creation of a dedicated north-south, east-west and east coast freight corridors by 2019.

“It is proposed to put these three projects on high priority to ensure structuring, award and implementation in a time-bound manner through innovative financing schemes including PPP,” Prabhu said in his more than an hour long speech.

Presenting his second Budget in the Lok Sabha, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu promised rationalising of the tariff structure by undertaking a review to evolve competitive rates vis-a-vis other modes of transport and to expand the freight basket as a means of additional revenue mobilisation.

rail2For improving quality of travel for an unreserved passenger, a superfast ‘Antyodya’ express service will be introduced. ‘Deen Dayalu’ unreserved coaches with portable water and higher number of mobile charging points were announced.

He also announced setting up of a Rail Development Authority to enable fair pricing of services, promote competition, protect customer interest and determine efficiency standards.

While reading out the budget for the coming fiscal, Prabhu said, ” We will exploit new sources of revenue beyond tariff revenue.”

Prabhu said that his ministry’s investment will be Rs 1.21 lakh crore for 2016-17 and the Railways will get Rs 40,000 crore budgetary support from the government.

The focus will be on capital expenditure with a mix of various sources of funding in order to ensure the projects are given assured funding, the minister said.

Talking about new tracks, the minister said he will commission 2,800 km of new tracks in the next year.

And speaking about the loss incurred because of subsidising passenger fares, he said,”Rs 30,000 crore is the loss on subsidising passenger fares.” Financial performance for the current year has reflected a savings of Rs 8,720 crore, neutralising most of the revenue shortfall, Prabhu said while reading the budget.

He also added that Railways will shift to completely paperless contract system in 2016-17.

The railway budget comes at the back drop of a falling revenue collection and increasing demand for funding and improving passenger services demands. The Minister is faced with an uphill task of providing passenger services amid dwindling funds.

Prime Minister lauded the Rail budget by saying, “Rail Budget showcases a vision to reorganise, restructure and rejuvenate Railways with new processes, structures, norms and sources of revenue.”

(With inputs from PTI)