Railway Budget 2014-15 Ups the Ante for Reforms and Better Services

Railway Budget 2014-15 Ups the Ante for Reforms and Better Services

The Railway Budget 2014-15 presented by Railway Minister Sadananda Gowda had a greater focus on reform measures including proposals for introducing Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) and Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) to minimize the scarcity of resources. He said that current policies can be amended to make way for FDI in railway sector but it would be limited to infrastructure projects and railway operations would be kept out of it. Improvements in existing PPP policy would also be made to attract a higher number of private companies for development of railways sector.

One of the most important highlights was the proposal for introduction of Bullet Trains on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad Route. The budget also included plan for setting up a Diamond Quadrilateral network of high-speed trains for connecting major metros and other important cities along with an increase in the speed of trains from 160-200 kms per hour in nine chosen sectors. Another major proposal was for starting 58 new trains including 27 express trains, 5 premium trains, 6 AC express trains, 5 Jansadharan trains and 8 passenger trains. Railway Budget 2014-15 has a plan outlay of Rs 65,445 crore as compared to a Railway Budget of 59,359 crore in 2013-14.

It is to be noted that a pre-budget hike of 14.2 percent in rail fares and 6.5 percent in freight rates was already attracting criticism for the newly-formed NDA government at the Centre. To counter this effect, a number of improvements in quality of service and facilities were announced in this Railway Budget.
These include: 

  1. Enhanced security measures: 
    To improve security of trains and stations, 4000 additional women RPF constables would be recruited. 
    Rs 40,000 crore would be set aside for track renewals and management of other safety related aspects. 
    An additional 12 percent funds are allocated for improved safety as compared with 2013-14 Railway Budget.
  2. IT- related Initiatives:
    A completely revamped E-ticketing system would be introduced to allow online reservation of 7200 tickets per minute and usage by 1.2 Lac users at the same time. 
    Availability of Wi-Fi services in A1 and A category stations and a selection of trains. Platform tickets and unreserved tickets can also be bought online. 
  3. Better Sanitation Services:
    An additional 40 percent hike in allocation of resources to ensure improvement in cleanliness services is announced. Onboard housekeeping would also be introduced in more trains and CCTVs would be installed to monitor the cleanliness of stations.
    Pre-cooked quality food by reputed brands and RO purified drinking water would be made available on trains and stations across different parts of India.