Presenting the Railway Budget for 2013-14 in Parliament today, minister Pawan Kumar Bansal avoided a further hike in passenger fares.
Instead he settled for hikes in peripherals like supplementary fee, superfast train charges, reservation fee, cancellation fee and charges on the 'tatkal' fee; freight charges were also raised indirectly by almost 5 per cent.
"A dynamic fuel adjustment component will be introduced on freight rates from 1 April that will result in less than 5 per cent increase in rates," Bansal said.
Announcing an estimated outlay of Rs5,19,000 crore for the upcoming fiscal year, the minister said that the estimated losses of the Railways stood at Rs24,000 crore in 2012-13.
This is in sharp contrast to the positive kitty built up by the Railways in the last decade, when the National Democratic Alliance government appointed Nitish Kumar, now chief minister of Bihar, as railway minister.
Kumar managed to turn the notoriously loss-making Railways around; and his successor, Bihar's previous chief minister Laloo Prasad Yadav, managed through some short cuts to maintain the profits.
Subsequently, in what is known as the UPA-2 government, the ministry fell into the hands of the Trinamool Congress led Mamata Banerjee.
After Banerjee left Delhi to become Chief Minister of West Bengal, she appointed Dinesh Trivedi as railway minster, a portfolio she snatched away from him when he dared to suggest a passenger fee hike in his 2012-13 budget speech.
Meanwhile, Railways has sunk back into loss; passenger amenities are deteriorating to abysmal levels; and worst of all, train accidents have become so routine that they hardly make the headlines.
Moreover, economists point out that with the latest levy, Indian rail freight charges will probably be the highest in the world. In a country with the world's second-largest railway network, this does incalculable harm to the country's growth ambitions.
"The growth of Indian Railways is inextricably linked to the growth of the country," Bansal said in his budget speech in the Lok Sabha. "It must remain financially sustainable. Resources generated must be ploughed back."
The minister said the Railways remained the single most important catalyst in India's growth story and was a vital organisation integrating the nation from Baramulla in the north to Kanyamumari in the south.
Bansal said in his presentation to Parliament that freight and passenger fares would have to be based on "economic realities".
"The rail network needs to be expanded at a faster rate. The growth of railways is linked to the growth of country," he said.
A thorn in the Railways' side has been the IRCTC, which continues to hold an unexplained monopoly on services from online ticket booking to railway catering despite countless complaints about unhygienic food and inadequate services.
According to Bansal himself, the Indian Railways Catering & Tourism Corp "causes inordinate delay". At the time of writing, the IRCTC website was dysfunctional.
Bansal also announced the creation of 27 new passenger trains and 67 new express trains, and said that services to religious destinations will be increased. The routes of 58 trains will be extended.
This proposal is begging for flak from political observers, as Bansal has continued the disastrous practice of increasing rolling stock without the concomitant upgrade of infrastructure.
In a ministry that has always had great scope for patronage, Bansal said the Railways had 120,000 vacancies, which it would seek to fill.
"Around 47,000 vacancies for the weaker sections (of society) and the physically challenged will be filled up soon," he said.
Bansal said that the Indian Railways was set to enter the billion-tonne freight club of China, Russia and the US.
Railways propose 67 new express trains, 26 passenger services
The Railways proposes to introduce as many as 67 express trains and 26 passenger trains this year, Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal announced today.
Presenting the 2013-14 Railway Budget, Bansal also said the Railways will introduce five mainline electrical multiple units (MEMUs) besides eight diesel electric multiple units (DEMUs) this year.
Besides, the Railways proposes to extend as many as 57 trains and increase the frequency of 24 trains, he said.
The new express trains include:
- Ahmedabad - Jodhpur Express (weekly) via Samdari, Bhildi
- Ajni (Nagpur)-Lokmanya Tilak (T) Express (weekly) via Hingoli
- Amritsar-Lalkuan Express (weekly) via Chandigarh
- Bandra Terminus-Ramnagar Express (weekly) via Nagda, Mathura, Kanpur, Lucknow, Rampur
- Bandra Terminus-Jaisalmer Express (weekly) via Marwar, Jodhpur
- Bandra Terminus-Hisar Express (weekly) via Ahmedabad, Palanpur, Marwar, Jodhpur, Degana
- Bandra Terminus-Haridwar Express (weekly) via Valsad
- Bangalore-Mangalore Express (weekly)
- Bathinda-Jammu Tawi Express (weekly) via Patiala, Rajpura
- Bhubaneswar-Hazrat Nizamuddin Express (weekly) via Sambalpur
- Bikaner-Chennai AC Express (weekly) via Jaipur, Sawai Madhopur, Nagda, Bhopal, Nagpur
- Chandigarh-Amritsar Intercity Express (daily) via Sahibzada Ajitsingh, Nagar (Mohali), Ludhiana
- Chennai-Karaikudi Express (weekly)
- Chennai-Palani Express (daily) via Jolarpettai, Salem, Karur, Namakkal
- Chennai Egmore-Thanjavur Express (daily) via Villupuram, Mayiladuthurai
- Chennai-Nagarsol (for Sai Nagar Shirdi) Express (weekly) via Renigunta, Dhone, Kacheguda
- Chennai-Velankanni Link Express (daily) via Villupuram, Mayiladuthurai, Tiruvarur
- 18. Coimbatore-Mannargudi Express (daily) via Tiruchchirappalli, Thanjavur, Nidamangalam
- Coimbatore-Rameswaram Express (weekly)
- Delhi-Firozpur Intercity Express (daily) via Bathinda
- Delhi Sarai Rohilla-Sikar Express (bi-weekly) after gauge conversion
- Delhi-Hoshiarpur Express (weekly)
- Durg-Jaipur Express (weekly)
- Gandhidham-Visakhapatnam Express (weekly) via Ahmedabad, Wardha, Ballarshah, Vijaywada
- Hazrat Nizamuddin-Mumbai AC Express (weekly) via Bhopal, Khandwa, Bhusawal
- Howrah-Chennai AC Express (bi-weekly) via Bhadrak, Duvvada, Gudur
- Howrah-New Jalpaiguri AC Express (weekly) via Malcia Town
- Hubli-Mumbai Express (weekly) via Miraj, Pune
- Indore-Chandigarh Express (weekly) via Dewas, Ujjain, Guna, Gwalior, Hazrat Nizamuddin
- Jabalpur-Yesvantpur Express (weekly) via Nagpur, Dharmavaram
- Jaipur-Lucknow Express (tri-weekly) via Bandikui, Mathura, Kanpur
- Jaipur-Alwar Express (daily)
- Jodhpur-Jaipur Express (daily) via Phulera
- Jodhpur-Kamakhya (Guwahati) Express (weekly) via Degana, Ratangarh
- Kakinada-Mumbai Express (bi-weekly)
- Kalka-Sai Nagar Shirdi Express (bi-weekly) via Hazrat Nizamuddin, Bhopal, Itrasi
- Kamakhya (Guwahati)-Anand Vlhar Express (weekly) via Katihar, Barauni, Sitapur Cantt, Moradabad
- Kamakhya (Guwahati)-Bangalore AC Express (weekly)
- Kanpur-Anand Vihar Express (weekly) via Farrukhabad
- Katihar-Howrah Express (weekly) via Malda Town
- Katra-Kalka Express (bi-weekly) via Morinda
- Kolkata-Agra Express (weekly) via Amethi, Rae Bareli, Mathura
- Kolkata-Sitamarhi Express (weekly) via Jhajha, Barauni, Darbhanga
- Kota-Jammu Tawi Express (weekly) via Mathura, Palwal
- Kurnool Town-Secunderabad Express (daily)
- Lokmanya Tilak (T)-Kochuveli Express (weekly)
- Lucknow-Varanasi Express via Rae-Bareli (6 days a week)
- Madgaon-Mangalore Intercity Express (daily) via Udupi, Karwar
- Mangalore-Kacheguda Express (weekly) via Dhone, Gooty, Renigunta, Coirnbatore
- Mau-Anand Vihar Express (bi-weekly)
- Mumbai-Solapur Express (6 days a week) via Pune
- Nagercoil-Bangalore Express (daily) via Madurai, Tiruchchirappalli
- New Delhi-Katra AC Express (6 days a week)
- Nizamabad-Lokmanya Tilak (T) Express (weekly)
- Patna-Sasaram Intercity Express (daily) via Ara
- Patliputra (Patna)-Bangalore Express (Weekly) Via Chheoki
- Puducherry-Kanniyakumari Express (weekly) via Villupuram, Mayiladuthurai, Tiruchchirappalli
- Puri-Sai Nagar Shirdi Express (weekly) via Sambalpur, Titlagarh, Raipur, Nagpur, Bhusawal
- Puri-Ajmer Express (weekly) via Abu-Road
- Radhikapur-Anand Vihar Link Express (daily)
- Rajendra Nagar Terminus (Patna)-New Tinsukia Express (weekly) via Katihar/ Guwahati
- Tirupati-Puducherry Express (weekly)
- Tirupati-Bhubaneswar Express (weekly) via Visakhapatnam
- Una / NangaJdam-Hazoor Saheb Nanded Express (weekly) via Anandpur Saheb, Morinda, Chandigarh, Ambala
- Visakhapatnam-Jodhpur Express (weekly) via Titlagarh, Raipur
- Visakhapatnam-Kollam Express (weekly)
- Yesvantpur-Lucknow Express (weekly) via Rae Bareli, Pratapgarh
- Bathinda-Dhuri Passenger (daily)
- Bikaner-Ratangarh Passenger (daily)
- Bhavnagar-Palitana Passenger (daily)
- Bhavnagar-Surendranagar Passenger (daily)
- Bareilly-Lalkuan Passenger (daily)
- Chhapra-Thawe Passenger (dily)
- Loharu-Sikar Passenger (daily) after gauge conversion
- Madgaon-Ratnagiri Passenger (daily)
- Marikuppam-Bangalore Passenger (daily)
- Muzaffarpur-Sitamarhi Passenger (daily) via Runnisaidpur
- Nadiad-Modasa Passenger (6 days a week)
- Nandyal-Kurnool Town Passenger (daily)
- New Amravati-Narkher Passenger (daily)
- Punalur-Kollam Passenger (daily)
- Purna-Parli Vaijnath Passenger (daily)
- Palani-Tiruchendur Passenger (daily)
- Ratangarh-Sardarsahar Passenger (daily) after gauge conversion
- Samastipur-Banmankhi Passenger via Saharsa, Madhepura (daily) after gauge conversion
- Shoranur-Kozhikode Passenger (daily)
- Surendranagar-Dharangdhara Passenger (daily)
- Suratgarh-Anupgarh Passenger (daily)
- Somnath-Rajkot Passenger (daily)
- Sitamarhi-Raxaul Passenger (daily)
- Sriganganagar-Hanumangarh-Sadulpur Passenger (daily) after gauge conversion
- Talguppa-Shimoga Town Passenger (daily)
- Thrisur-Guruvayur Passenger (daily)
- Delhi-Rohtak (Replacement of conventional service by MEMU)
- Sealdah-Berhampore Court
- Bhatkal - Thokur
- Delhi-Kurukshetra via Kaithal
- Lucknow-Pratapgarh via Gauriganj
- Taran Taran-Goindwal Saheb
The Railways will also increase the frequency of the following 24 trains:
- 12547/12548 Agra Fort-Ahmedabad Express - 3 to 7 days
- 11453/11454 Ahrnedabad-Nagpur Express - 2 to 3 days
- 22615/22616 Coimbatore-Tirupati Express – 3 to 4 days
- 14037/14038 Delhi-Pathankot Express - 3 to 6 days
- 19409/19410 Gorakhpur-Ahmedabad Express - 1 to 2 days
- 13465/13466 Howrah-Malda Town Express - 6 to 7 days
- 12159/12160 Jabalpur-Amravati Express - 3 to 7 days
- 11103/11104 Jhansi-Bandra (T) Express - 1 to 2 days
- 19325/19326 Indore-Amritsar Express - 1 to 2 days
- 12469/12470 Kanpur-Jammu Tawi Express - 1 to 2 days
- 12217/12218 Kochuveli-Chandigarh Express - 1 to 2 days
- 12687/12688 Madurai-Dehradun/Chandigarh Express - 1 to 2 days
- 13409/13410 Malda Town-Jamalpur Express - 6 to 7 days
- 17213/17214 Narsapur-Nagersol (Near Sainagar Shirdi) Express - 2 to 7 days
- 12877/12878 Ranchi-New Delhi Garib Rath Express - 2 to 3 days
- 18509/18510 Visakhapatnam-Hazoor Saheb Nanded Express - 2 to 3 days
- 22819/22820 Visakhapatnam-Lokmanya Tilak (T) Express - 2 to 7 days
- 18309/18310 Sambalpur-Hazoor Saheb Nanded Express - 2 to 3 days
- 12751/12752 Secunderabad - Manuguru Express - 3 to 7 days
- 12629/12630 Yesvantpur-Hazrat Nizamuddun Sampark Kranti Express - 2 to 4 days
- 56221/56222/56525/56526 Bangalore-Tumkur Passenger – 6 to 7 days
- 56321 Kanniyakumari-Tirunelveli Passenger – 6 to 7 days
- 56325 Nagercoil - Kanniyakumari Passenger - 6 to 7 days
- 56312 Tirunelveli - Nagercoil Passenger - 6 to 7 days