Work is on to incorporate some of the poll promises of the BJP in the Rail Budget scheduled for a week from now. The States which gave rich dividends to the BJP are also likely to benefit, but the Railways will not bear the burden of new works alone. In ter-ms of new projects, the budget is expected to be minimalist.
Railway Minister Sada-nanda Gowda met Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday to apprise him about the upcoming opening of the Udhampur-Katra line and to discuss the budget.
Sources said an agri-rail network, which envisages a web of dedicated links transporting agricultural produce across India will find a mention.
Old projects which can create capacity for Railways and those on which much money has already been spent will be kept alive while those with negative return rates are likely to go to the backburner for good. Internally, Railways have been categorising projects on the basis of “essential”, “desirable” and “not required at present”.
A bullet train corridor, between Ahmedabad and Mumbai to be linked to the proposed “Diamond Quadrilateral” will also be mentioned. Launch of semi-high speed trains on certain existing routes have also been discussed, sources said. The Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in railway lines, including the proposed bullet train corridor will feature in the budget, as a means to pump cash into the project. More premium trains, which have been making money for the Railways, and Jansadharan express trains on popular routes will be announced.
Railways is going to spell out the implementation of several recommendations of the Anil Kakodkar committee report on safety upgrades. Special allocation for this is going to be highlighted in the budget.
As far as the sops go, Varanasi is likely to emerge as a gainer in terms of works related to connectivity, especially doubling of lines to enhance capacity. Intercity trains linking Varanasi with more nearby areas are also on the cards. However, the pervious government’s stress on state participation will continue in terms of new works.
The Railways is not going to spread itself thin in Gowda’s maiden Rail Budget, and in terms of new works to be taken up and new trains to be launched, the budget could be described as good as frugal.
At Tri Nagar, Smriti Irani centered her speech around Modi, with over 10 references in 11-minute extempore.