Budget 2017 – Railways on the right track?

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Budget 2017 marks the beginning of a new era for Indian Railways, for this is the first time since 1924 that no separate Railway Budget has been presented. Finance Minister Mr. Arun Jaitley has made sure that the railways, India’s lifeline is not left on the slow track. Here is a look at some key factors which could change the way India travels.

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Travel by train is set to get cleaner, with new services on the anvil.
  1. The Railway budget stands at a whopping Rs.1.31 Trillion or Rs.1,31,000 crore. This is the largest in terms of money, beating the budget of 2016-2017 by 8.26%. The railways had a budget of Rs.1.21 trillion last year.
  2. The Finance Ministry will provide Rs.55,000 crore towards meeting this budgetary allotment. This amount will be part of the Gross Budgetary Support.
  3. Passenger safety will be a key concern, with Rs.1 lakh crore to be generated under the Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh.
  4. Rail travel to get slightly cheaper, thanks to withdrawal of service charge on tickets booked via IRCTC.
  5. Government to launch specialised trains to cash in on tourism. Special trains will also cater to pligrims.
  6. In a bid to remove the “Disable-unfriendly” tag which plagues the railways, the government will improve 500 railway stations across the country. These will be equipped with lifts and escalators to ensure that the differently abled do not face problems.
  7. Bio-toilets to be installed in all coaches. The government aims to accomplish this by 2019.
  8. With an eye on safety, the budget proposes to eliminate all unmanned level crossings. The aim is to accomplish this by 2020.
  9. The country will get an additional 3,500 kms of railway lines. Work towards this is expected to be commissioned in the coming financial year.
  10. The station redevelopment program will see 25 new stations get awarded. Facilities will be upgraded in these stations.
  11. To save electricity and promote use of green energy, 7,000 stations will be powered by solar energy.
  12. Railway tariff would be fixed, with service quality, operating costs and competition deciding these tariffs.
  13. To ensure cleanliness of coaches, a new SMS service, “Clean My Coach” has been implemented.
  14. Complaints related to coaches can now be registered through “Coach Mitra”. This is a single-window interface which can be used for any complaints or requirements in any given train coach. This service is expected to be launched soon.
  15. The government aims to use innovation in trains, with a new Metro Rail Policy expected to be announced. This policy will focus on using indigenous software and hardware, in addition to using improved financing methods. A new Metro Rail Act is also on the anvil, with an impetus on increased investment and private participation.

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