NewDelhi/Nagpur: Rail Minister Suresh Prabhu began presenting the rail budget this morning by promising that it would “reflect the aspirations of the people.” With elections due in five states, he is walking the tightrope between populist measures and the cash-strapped Railways’ urgent need for finances to fund modernisation and better passenger facilities.
He said his three focuses are “revenue, norms and structure”, and the core objective “to become an engine of economic growth, create employment and improve customer experience at the individual level.”
His ministry’s plans, Mr Prabhu said, are designed around – “Yatri ki garima, Rail ki Gati and Desh ki Pragati (Pride of the passenger, speed of the train and development of the country)”.
The minster announced that he would commission 2,800 km of new tracks in the next year, and that the Railways would invest Rs. 1.21 lakh crore for 2016-17.
“We have ramped up capital expenditure to remove the huge backlog and provide for future needs…the rate of capital expenditure has increased,” Mr Prabhu said in his speed-read Budget speech.
He said the Railways had saved Rs. 8,720 crore in fuel cost like power last year.
The Railways faced challenging times, Mr Prabhu noted and said, “we will exploit new sources of revenue beyond tariff revenue.”
This is Mr Prabhu’s second Railway Budget. The 62-year-old Chartered Accountant hand-picked by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to script a turnaround for the Indian Railways, the world’s fourth largest.
“Above all this Budget is expressing vision and leadership of PM Modi,” Mr Prabhu said as he began his speech.
The question being asked hours before the Railway Minister began presenting his annual budget was whether he would bite the bullet and raise passenger fares and freight?
Last year, he did not raise fares but made headlines by announcing not a single new train.
Highlight of Railway Budget 2016-2017 by Union Minister for Railways, Shri Suresh Prabhakar Prabhu
1:10 pm: The companies owned by Railways to come under a holding company.
1:09 pm: Two dedicated freight corridors by 2019.
1:07 pm: I’m setting aside Rs. 50 crore for providing innovation grants to start-ups.
1:04 pm: Drones to be used for remote monitoring of ongoing projects.
1:03 pm: 33%sub-quota for women under all reserved categories.
1:02 pm: We’ll increase the advertising revenue by more than four times this year.
1:01 pm: We intend to give special focus to exploring advertising potentials at big stations.
1:01 pm: In-principal nod for MUTP projects received.
1:01 pm: India’s first rail auto hub to come up in Chennai.
1:01 pm: Special purpose vehicle for the Ahmedabad-Mumbai high speech corridor registered this month: rail budget 2016-17.
1:00 pm: A full-fledged market study on freight basket underway for revival of freight share.
12:59 pm: We will partner with the Govt. of TN for developing suburban network in Chennai through innovative financing methods.
12:59 pm: We will work with Karnataka State Government for suburban rails.
12:58 pm: Ring Railway to be redeveloped in partnership with the Delhi government.
12:57 pm: I propose to invite FM radio stations to provide train borne entertainment via PA systems:
12:56 pm: We intend to publish Rail Bandhu magazine in all regional languages.
12:56 pm: Elevated rail corridors from Churchgate to Virar and CST to Panvel on the cards.
12:54 pm: We’ll install GPS-based digital display in coaches for showing upcoming stations.
12:54 pm: We intend taking up on priority passenger amenities and beautification of stations.
12:53 pm: We have also revamped our internal audit system with view to bringing in efficiency in working practices.
12:52 pm: Coolies will be called ‘Sahayaks’.
12:52 pm: Children’s menu, baby foods, baby boards to be made available for travelling mothers.
12:51 pm: We’re skilling of front-end staff employed through service providers.
12:51 pm: We’re planning to re-imagine design of coaches.
12:50 pm: IRCTC will make available local cuisine of choice, hygienic food.
12:50 pm: All new Railway stations to be built as per Accessible India guidelines.
12:48 pm: We’re working with insurance companies for optional insurance to passengers.
12:48 pm: We’ve introduced Sarthi Seva in Konkan Railways for help to senior citizens; will expand this service
12:48 pm: The cleaning of toilets by requests through SMS.
12:47 pm: New policy of multi-purpose stalls at station to provide multiple services like milk and medicines.
12:46 pm: Local cuisine of choice will be made available to passengers.
12:45 pm: IRCTC will begin to manage catering service in phased manner.
12:45 pm: We’ll include e-ticket facility for foreign debit and credit card holders.
12:44 pm: We’ll open cancellation facility through 139 helpline number.
12:44 pm: Journalists to get facility of e-booking of tickets on concessional passes.
12:43 pm: We are planning to introduce bar-coded tickets on pilot basis to tackle menace of ticketless travel.
12:43 pm: Overnight double-decker trains to be introduced on business travel routes.
12:42 pm: We have opened long awaited Broad Gauge Lumding-Silchar section in Assam, connecting Barak Valley with rest of country.
12:41 pm: Long distance superfast train Antyodaya Express for unreserved passsengers.
12:41 pm: Fully unreserved superfast trains to be introduced on dense traffic routes.
12:40 pm: We’ll introduce Deen Dayal coaches for long distance trains for unreserved passengers.
12:40 pm: A full-fledged Railway University soon.
12:38 pm: A single accident or loss of a single life causes me great sorrow and anguish.
12:38 pm: Safety record has become better. 20% less accidents this year than last year but a lot needs to be done.
12:37 pm: CCTV network has been provided at 311 railway stations.
12:37 pm: Walls of many stations have been converted to murals, also contributing to social awareness.
12:36 pm: Railways to increase the quota of lower berths for women and senior citizens.
12:36 pm: We will formulate a framework where net saving from electrification will be able to finance capital expenditure.
12:35 pm: It is proposed to undertake bidding for redevelopment of few large and medium stations.
12:34 pm: Enhanced capacity of e-ticketing system from 2000 tickets/min to 7,200/min.
12:33 pm: Wi-Fi at 100 railway stations this year and 400 next year.
12:33 pm: There is an increase in seat quota this year; 50% up for senior citizens.
12:32 pm: We introduced 1,780 ticket-vending machines.
12:31 pm: Swacch Bharat: 17,000 bio-toilets and additional toilets to be provided by end of this Fiscal Year.
12:31 pm: 1,600 km of electrification this year and 2,000 km proposed for the next year.
12:30 pm: More than 1 lakh telephone calls are made everyday to seek inputs from passengers.
12:29 pm: The common people have always been the focus of all our initiatives.
12:28 pm: We have received in-principle approval from 17 States to form joint ventures. Cabinet decision to allow JVs with States for rail projects opens new vistas for ownership in railway sector.
12:27 pm: North-East India, especially Mizoram and Manipur, to be connected through broad gauge soon.
12:27 pm: We will commission 2,800 km of new tracks in next year.
12:24 pm: Social Media has been used to bring in transparency.
12:24 pm: We have started recruitment process online for Railways to bring 100% transperancy.
12:23 pm: We have finalised bids for setting up 2 locomotive factories. New factories to be set up with an order book of Rs. 40,000 crore.
12:22 pm: Indian Railways to surpass ambitious target of commissioning 2500 kms of broad gauge lines, almost 30% higher than last year.
12:22 pm: Every Rupee in investment in Railways has the capacity to increase economy wide output of Rs. 5.
12:21 pm: New freight corridors announced: Delhi-Chennai, Kharagpur-Mumbai, Kharagpur-Vijayawada.
12:20 pm: LIC has agreed invest Rs. 1.5 lakh crore over 5 years on extremely favourable terms.
12:20 pm: Dedicated freight corridor project gaining momentum.
12:19 pm: We are poised to commission broad gauge lines at the rate of 7 km per day against 4.5 km over last five years.
12:18 pm: We will generate 9 crore man-days employment by 2017-18 and 14 crore man-days by 2018-19.
12:17 pm: By 2020, we’ll have time-tabled freight trains.
12:16 pm: New way of funding projects introduced using institutional financing.
12:16 pm: Happy to announce action has been initiated on 139 Budget announcements last year.
12:16 pm: Elimination of unmanned level crossings a priority. By 2020, eliminiate all unmanned level crossing.
12:16 pm: We hope to generate revenues of order of Rs.1,84,820 cr next year, 10.1% higher than revised target of current year.
12:14 pm: The vision is Railways must provide people rail system they can be proud of.
12:13 pm: In 2016-17, the capital plan will be Rs. 1,21,000 crore.
12:13 pm: A saving of Rs. 8,720 crore for Budget estimates of last year will be effected this year.
12:13 pm: Co-operation, collaboration and communication, are the hallmarks of Indian Railways’s journey forward.
12:13 pm: We’ll win back our share in transportation sector. Every asset to be optimally monetised.
12:12 pm: For year 2016-17 we expect the operating ratio of 92%. What is operating ratio?
It is a financial ratio used for large industries to define operating expenses as a percentage of revenue.
12:10 pm: We are facing two headwinds: tepid growth of our economy’s core sectors, increased productivity bonus payouts.
12:09 pm: The Railways stood test of time because of its employees.
12:08 pm: Core objective is to become an engine of employment generation and economic growth at national level.
12:07 pm: This budget will document a journey of transformation and journey of nation.
12:06 pm: This Budget owes its inspiration to vision of PM Modi who said: “My vision is to make railways backbone of India’s progress & economic development.”
11:42 am: Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu to present his second Rail Budget shortly.