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No change in fares as Arun Jaitley allocates highest-ever capital expenditure for Railways

Budget 2018: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said most of the money would be spent on capacity expansion, since it was the top-most priority for the national transporter, besides safety of passengers.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi | Updated: February 1, 2018 2:40:07 pm
No change in Rail fares as Arun Jaitley allocates highest-ever capital expenditure for Railways The Finance Minister said re-development of 600 major railway stations had been taken up. (Express photo by Amit Mehra/File)

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced the largest ever allocation of capital expenditure of Rs 1.48 lakh crore, about 17 lakh more than the last fiscal, for the Railways in his fifth Union Budget. The Finance Minister said most of the money would be spent on capacity expansion, since it was the top-most priority for the national transporter, besides safety of passengers. However, there were no announcements on reduction of fares, especially the dynamic pricing system, which had come under criticism of long-distance travellers. Read | Railway Budget 2018

“Rs 1,48,528 crore to be allocated for railways for 2018-19,” Jaitley said during the presentation of the last full Budget of the NDA government. Last year, about Rs 1.31 lakh crore were allocated to Indian Railways, with a gross budgetary support of Rs 55,000 crore. The 92-year-old practice of a separate Railway budget was discontinued last year and was merged with the Union Budget.

However, as per expected lines, no major new trains were announced and the focus was more on modernisation and passenger safety. The Finance Minister said re-development of 600 major railway stations had been taken up. All railway stations with more than 25,000 footfall would have escalators and CCTVs and Wi-Fi facilities would also progressively provided in them. Moreover, a specialised railway university will come up at Vadodara, which will serve as the training centre for manpower required for high-speed railway projects. Follow | Budget 2018 LIVE updates

Railway Minister Piyush Goyal called it a balanced Budget and said it would give a fresh impetus to building a “new railways” for India. “Its a balanced budget which is for every section of society, especially the focus on farmers and health services of the poor. Economy will also get a boost. The budget will enhance people’s ease of living and give impetus to build New Railways for a New India,” Goyal said. Goyal, who took over as Railway minister from Suresh Prabhu last year, had declared 2018 as the year for the security of women and child commuters in railways at an event last week. He said strong implementation of CCTV networks across trains and stations on the Central Railway was important for ensuring their safety.

In his Budget speech, Jaitley strongly advocated for the use of technology and fog safety devices to bring down train accidents. A government report tabled in Lok Sabha last month said that more than 35 train accidents were reported last year. The report said 29 rail accidents occurred in the first six months killing 58 people.

The minister said 36,000 km of rail track renewal has been targeted in the coming year while 4,267 unmanned railway crossings on broad gauge routes would be eliminated in the next two years. New world-class train sets are being manufactured, dedicated freight corridors are coming up and electrification is being taken up as a priority task, Jaitley said.

The minister also pointed out that 600 stations have been earmarked for modernisation by the railways. The focus will also be on a suburban rail network in Mumbai and Bangalore. Goyal, who wants to “bring the charm back to train travel”, has repeatedly harped on pressing ahead with the modernisation of railways to turn it into a profitable entity.

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