No fare hike in Railway Budget
01 February 2019
Railway and coal minister Piyush Goyal, who is currently also the acting finance minister, announced a Rs64,587 crore outlay for Indian Railways in his Railway Budget for the upcoming financial year 2019-2020. The planned expenditure would be a 148-per cent hike from the levels of 2014.
According to Goyal, Indian Railways has gone beyond incremental improvements. All infrastructure sectors have performed well, he said in his Railway Budget speech.
Speaking of the world-class indigenous Train 18, now named Vande Bharat Express, Goyal said that the new self-propelled train will be a flag bearer of speed, service and safety.
He said the Vande Bharat Express is a ‘Make in India’ initiative that will help create more jobs as more such trains are manufactured for service across the Indian Railways network.
Goyal also announced that the operating ratio for the current fiscal year has improved to 96.2 per cent and in the next financial year the aim will be to take it to 95 per cent.
Goyal announced that this has been the safest year for Indian Railways. He said the ministry has eliminated all unmanned level crossings on the broad gauge network. This feat was achieved on 31 January 2019, when the last unmanned level crossing was removed.
No railway fare hike was announced in Railway Budget 2019, given the fact this is the year of Lok Sabha elections.
Doing away with the practise since colonial times of having a separate Railway Budget, the Modi government merged the document with the main Union Budget in 2017, though it continues to merit a separate announcement.
Goyal started his speech at 11:00 am and the Railway Budget 2019 was a part of the main Union Budget 2019 speech.
Indian Railways is making use of artificial intelligence to detect the health of not only coaches but also tracks, he said. AI-enabled software is being used to make sure that any faults are detected early and prevented. Indian Railways recently rolled out a SMART AI-enabled LHB coach and plans to eventually make this a practise for all manufacturing in the future.
Indian Railways has been focusing on de-congesting its vast network and Mission Raftaar aims to improve the average speed of both passenger and freight trains. With several stretches of the Dedicated Freight Corridor (DFCs) opening, the network will free up for faster movement of passenger trains. This will improve punctuality of trains and result in capacity augmentation, Goyal said.
Last year, Indian Railways completely revamped the IRCTC next-generation e-ticketing website to make it more convenient for passengers to book train tickets. Some notable features are being able to check train availability without logging in, wait-list prediction, etc. Goyal mentioned the success of the new IRCTC website in his Railway Budget speech.
Under Project Utkrisht, Indian Railways is upgrading as many as 140 Mail/Express train rakes by the end of this financial year. The plan over the next few years is to upgrade as many as 640 Mail/Express train rakes.
Indian Railways recently announced recruitment for an additional 2.3 lakh people. These railway recruitments will take place over the next 2 years and the newly introduced 10 per cent reservation for upper caste/general will be applicable on them.
Indian Railways is developing its railway stations to give them an airport-like feel. The Indian Railway Station Development Corporation (IRSDC) is undertaking the task of redeveloping several railway stations across the Indian Railways network. In the near future, Madhya Pradesh's Habibganj and Gujarat's Gandhinagar stations will be ready with swanky restrooms and airport-like retail spaces.