Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley during Parliament Budget Session on Wednesday announced that no service charge will be levied on tickets booked through the IRCTC website. As of now, Rs. 40 on every ticket booked in air-conditioned classes and a service charge of Rs. 20 on every ticket booked in sleeper class is levied by the IRCTC when ticket is booked through its website. “Service charges on e-tickets booked through IRCTC will be withdrawn. Cashless reservations have gone up from 58 percent to 68 percent,” Jaitley said while presenting his fourth Union Budget. Announcing the combined budget for the first time in the history of independent India, Jaitley said the total capital and developmental expenditure of Railways for 2017-18 has been pegged at 1, 31,000 crores, which includes Rs. 55,000 crores provided by the government for the budget.
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“Amongst other things, the Railways will focus on four major areas- passengers safety, capital and developmental works, cleanliness and financial and accounting reforms,” he said. For passengers safety, a ‘rail sanraksha kosh’ will be created over a period of five years- a rail safety fund with corpus of Rs. 1,00,000 crores, announced the Finance Minister.
He also announced that unmanned leveled crossings on broad gauge lines will be eliminated by 2020. “Expert international assistance will be harnessed to improve safety preparedness. The thorough put is expected to be raised by 10 percent. This will be done through modernization, upgradation of identified corridors,” he said. He also said that unmanned leveled crossings on broad gauge lines will be eliminated by 2020.
The Finance Minister also announced that at least 25 stations are expected to be awarded during 2017-18 for station redevelopment and 500 stations will be made differently-abled-friendly by providing lifts and escalators. “It is proposed to feed around least 7,000 stations with solar power in the medium term,” he said. The government has also announced that railway lines of 3,500 kilometers will be commissioned in 2017-18 as against 2,800 kilometers in 2016-17. “Steps will be taken to launch dedicated trains of tourism and pilgrimage,” Jaitley said.
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Asserting that the focus of government is on ‘Swachh Railways’, the Finance Minister said that an SMS based ‘clean my coach service’ has been started. “It is now proposed to introduce a coach-mitra facility-a single window interface to register all coach related complaints and requirements,” he said. He also announced that by 2019, all coaches of Indian Railways will be fitted with bio-toilets.
“It will now be our continuous endeavour to improve the operating ratio of the Railways. The tariffs of the railway fares would be fixed taking into consideration cost, quality of service, social obligation and competition from other forms of transport,” he added. Jaitley also said that a new metro rail policy will be announced which would open up new jobs for the youth. “A new metro rail act has been enacted by rationalizing the existing laws. This will facilitate greater private participation and investment in construction and operation,” he said.
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