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No hikes in Railway budget
NEW DELHI, FEB 25 (IANS):
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Published on 26 Feb. 2011 12:51 AM IST
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Sparing the passenger and industry from fare and freight hikes yet again, Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee Friday presented the rail budget for 2011-12 with the highest investment of Rs.57,630 crore ($12.7 billion), 68 new trains and a vow to build a stronger railroad infrastructure based on the Vision 2020 document.
From more money for safety and several industrial parks under the public-private model, to new coach factories and concessions for women and even journalists, Banerjee sought to address all constituencies, especially her poll-bound home state of West Bengal.
Apart from new trains, the budget sought to extend the services of 33 trains, increase frequencies of 17 others, conduct 107 line surveys to identify new routes, start double-decker trains on Jaipur-Delhi and Ahmedabad-Mumbai routes and introduce super AC class.
The budget also sought to extend the concession to physically challenged people to all Rajdhani and Shatabdi trains, make 50 percent concession for media persons and families twice a year, and hike the rebate to senior citizens from 30 percent to 40 percent.
Also to be launched is a multi-purpose pan-India smart card “Go India” for seamlessly pay for tickets for long distance, suburban and metro trains. A new portal for e-tickets will levy a lower charge of Rs.10 for airconditioned and Rs.5 for other classes. And what does West Bengal, in particular, get: A new metro coach factory at Singur, 15 new suburban trains and 34 new Metro services for Kolkata. Several of the new trains, extensions and enhanced frequencies also pertain to her home state.
“We have taken a two-pronged approach. On the one hand, building sustainable, efficient, rapidly-growing railways. On the other, having an acute sense of social responsibility towards the common people,” Banerjee told the Lok Sabha.
“In this budget we have attempted to combine a strong economic focus with an equivalent emphasis on social inclusion with a human face,” she said in her 90-minute speech which was her fifth such personal exercise as railways minister.
The latest rail budget also comes against the backdrop of the assembly elections due soon in the home state of the railway minister, whose Trinamool Congress has set its eyes on forming the next government in the state, ousting the Left-led rule of over three decades.
Mid-way into Banerjee’s speech, opposition members, especially those from the Rashtriya Janata Dal, Samajwadi Party and the Bharatiya Janata Party, were up on their feet, protesting what they said was undue attention to West Bengal.
But Banerjee was equally fiery. “I am proud of my state. I’ll do whatever possible for West Bengal along with what I’ll do for other states of my country.” This led to some disruptions, forcing the minister to stop her speech on several occassions.
The railway minister said the ministry’s gross traffic receipts were expected to cross the Rs.100,000-crore ($22.5-billion) mark for the first time ever this fiscal, based on freight traffic projection of 993 million tonnes and passenger growth of 6.4 percent
Express train for Dmu-Ghy
Though Nagaland did not get Duronto trains and double-decker air conditioned services in Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee’s budget speech, the state at least felt a sigh of relief as new express train was introduced –– Guwahati-Dimapur express (daily) in the railway budgetary allocations.
This was among the 56 new trains introduced by Railway Minister Mamta Banerjee in her budget speech Friday in the Lok Sabha.
“I propose to introduce following new express trains,” she said before reading out the allocations.
Mamata also said that on the basis of requests received from members, state governments and others, 107 surveys are proposed to be taken up in 2011-12, which include Dimapur-Tizit section.
PM lauds Rail budget
It is a common man’s budget with no increase in freight and passenger fares. It will help to weaken the cost crucial element of inflationary expectations,” the prime minister told reporters outside parliament.
At the same time, the railway minister has taken good care to increase investment in critical areas of railway infrastructure, thereby sustaining the growth momentum of the economy,” he added.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE BUDGET
* No increase in passngers fares or freight rates.
* Earnings for 2010-11 set to exceed Rs.1 lakh cr.
* Working expenditure during 2011-12 estimated at Rs.87,000 cr.
* Outlay of Rs.57,630 cr for 2011-12, the highest investment in one year.
* Rs.10,000 cr to be raised through railway bonds.
* Loss of Rs.3,500 crore in 2010-11.
* Safety first priority; accident rate has come down.
* All-India security helpline set up.
* Imphal to be soon connected to railway network.
* Multi-purpose smart card to be introduced for all-India travel.
* Airport-like trolleys to be provided at more stations.
* Railways to set up a sports cadre.
* Upgraded class of air conditioned travel to be introduced shortly.
* To adopt modern technology through centres of academic excellence.
* Train to run to Bangladesh to showcase Indian culture.
* Age for senior citizen’s concession reduced to 58 from 60.
* Concession for physically handicapped and gallantry award winners for travel in Rajdhani and Shatabdi expresses.
* 50% concession for mediapersons with families to be increased from once to twice a year.

 
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