The change of government at the Centre coupled with a steep hike in the railway fare recently have led to high expectations of commuters from the rail budget that is to be presented on Tuesday. Speculations are rife on as to how many of the promises made in the previous rail budgets would materialise.
A look at the announcements made during the Union rail budgets of 2012 and 2013 and the interim budget presented earlier this year by the outgoing government shows that little has changed on the ground, claim activists.
In the union budget of 2011, the then railway minister Mamata Banerjee had announced several new projects and new trains. While the new trains — Pune-Ahmedabad Duronto Express, Pune-Secunderbad Shatabdi Express, Pune-Nanded weekly and Ranchi to Pune via Bilaspur — successfully started, the projects are still to take off.
A multi-disciplinary training centre for the railway employees in Pune as well as surveying of an all — important third line between Pune and Lonavla was announced by her in the same budget, but there hasn’t been an iota of progress on both these fronts, say officials.
In the 2012 budget, the new trains that were announced — Amravati-Pune bi-weekly express and Porbander-Secunderabad weekly express via Pune — became functional by end of the financial year. However, the project of laying of new railway line between Pune and Nashik is still pending. Similarly, there’s no progress on the electrification project of Londa-Miraj-Pune stretch, also announced in the 2012 budget.
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Though no new trains from Pune were announced in the 2013 budget, surveying of a new line between Jejuri and Saswad — both important pilgrim towns — was announced but it remains only on paper. Also, in the same budget, Rs 2 crore was allotted for construction of the new foot over bridge (FOB). Though the work on the bridge started five months ago, it’s progressing at snails pace. It’s not clear when it will be completed and functional.
Also, Pune was supposed to get two out of the total 179 escalators that were announced to be installed at major railway stations across the country. No progress is seen on that front as well.
According to Harsha Shah of Railway Pravasi Group, the Railway Board is quick to announce new projects but they fail to complete them largely because of lack of funds. “Budget after budget, new trains and infrastructure projects were announced but fares remained largely the same. Due to this, there was limited revenue generation and the railways remained cash strapped to implement the new projects announced. Such is the shortage of funds that it’s difficult to even sustain the projects already running,” said Shah. Shah said that with the 14.2 per cent fare hike announced last month, it can be hoped that the railway will generate resources to improve the facilities and complete the pending projects.