The Union Minister for Finance and Corporate Affairs, Arun Jaitley while presenting the General Budget 2017-18, said that this budget is the first combined budget of independent India that includes the Railways. He said that India is now in a position to synergise the investments in railways, roads, waterways and civil aviation. For 2017-18, the total capital and development expenditure on Railways has been pegged at Rs. 1,31,000 crores. This includes Rs. 55,000 crores provided by the Government, the Finance Minister added.
The Railways will focus on four major areas, namely, passenger safety, capital and development works, cleanliness and finance and accounting reforms. For passenger safety, a ‘Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh’ will be created with a corpus of Rs.1 lakh crores over a period of 5 years, to be funded by seed capital from the Government, Railways’ own revenues and other sources.
Jaitley said that Railway lines of 3,500 kms will be commissioned in 2017-18, as against 2,800 kms in 2016-17 and steps will be taken to launch dedicated trains for tourism and pilgrimage. In the next three years, the through put is proposed to be enhanced by 10%. Further, the Minister added that Railways have set-up joint ventures with nine state governments and 70 projects have been identified for the construction and development.
Regarding station redevelopment, he informed that at least 25 stations are expected to be awarded during 2017-18 for redevelopment and 500 stations will be made differentlyabled friendly by providing lifts and escalators. It is also proposed to feed about 7,000 stations with solar power in the medium term, of which, a beginning has already been made in 300 stations. Works will be taken-up for 2,000 railway stations as part of 1,000 MW solar mission, the Minister added.
Emphasising the government’s focus on ‘Swachh Rail’, the Finance Minister informed that a series of steps are proposed to be taken to enhance cleanliness in Railways, of which, an SMS based ‘Clean My Coach Service’ has already been started. It is now proposed to introduce the ‘Coach Mitra’ facility, a single window interface to register all coach related complaints and requirements.
Further, Jaitley said that by 2019, all coaches of Indian Railways will be fitted with bio toilets. Pilot plants for environment friendly disposal of solid waste and conversion of biodegradable waste to energy are being set-up at New Delhi and Jaipur Railway Stations and five more such Solid waste management plants are now being taken-up.
The Finance Minister also gave details about proposed steps to be taken by the government to help Railways stay competitive vis-a-vis other modes of transportation dominated by the private sector and retain their position of pre-eminence.
The Finance Minister Jaitley re-emphasised on the government’s continuous endeavour to improve the operating ratio of the Railways. He informed that the tariffs of Railways would be fixed, taking into consideration costs, quality of service, social obligations and competition from other forms of transport.
Finance Minister informed that a new Metro Rail Policy will be announced with focus on innovative models of implementation and financing, as well as standardization and indigenisation of hardware and software. This will open-up new job opportunities for our youth. A new Metro Rail Act will be enacted by rationalizing the existing laws. This will facilitate greater private participation and investment in construction and operation, he added.