The first Rail Budget of the Modi government, tabled in Parliament on Tuesday, offered nothing new to the city. Railway Minister D V Sadananda Gowda only extended one existing train from the city, and announced conversion of another into a semi-high speed train.
The Ferozpur-Chandigarh Express, which operates five days a week, will now operate on six days, and the speed of an existing train between Chandigarh and Delhi will be increased from 160 km to 200 km per hour as part of the semi-high speed trains announced for nine routes. Gowda did not name the train.
The budget makes no mention of several projects announced in the past. These included transforming the station into a world class one, a skill development centre for the youth, and multi-modal services.
Former railway minister Pawan Kumar Bansal, who had announced seven trains for the city last year, called the budget ‘disappointing for Chandigarh’.
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“The train to Haridwar, which was announced last year, has not been started. The announcement of semi-high speed train is not new as the proposal was already in the pipeline,” he said.
Bansal said that last year the city got connected to several religious destinations. However, this year nothing was announced. He added, “Several projects started at the Chandigarh Railway Station when I was the minister. The progress has slowed down. I was conscious of the fact that with so many trains starting, the problem of parking of vehicles would be there. A multi-level parking lot could have been constructed.”
However, Gowda announced some facilities which would benefit railway passengers everywhere. These included Wi-Fi services, mobile-based wake-up call and updates for passengers, revamping of the reservation system, ticket booking through mobile phones and post offices, RO drinking water units at stations and in trains on an experimental basis, bio-toilets in trains, onboard house-keeping, CCTV cameras to keep an eye on cleanliness of stations and ladies coaches to be escorted by RPF women constables.
Also, e-ticketing will be improved so that 1.2 lakh people could log in simultaneously, and all-India helpline numbers would be printed behind the tickets.