Today was the tabling of the first ever Union Budget after the merger of the Railway Budget into it. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley who presented the joint budget in the Parliament today had a slew of goodies for India’s biggest state-owned corporation and the passengers.
One good news for passengers is that there won’t be any service charge on e-tickets booked through IRCTC anymore. This is in tune with the government’s cashless economy plan.
Among the major areas of the Indian Railways that the Union Budget 2017 laid stress on were rail safety, cleanliness and development work.
The government has proposed to create Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh with a corpus of Rs.1 lakh crore.
As part of increasing passenger safety, Jaitley said that all unmanned level crossings on the broad gauge networks will be eliminated by 2020. Three railways zones – West-Central, Eastern and Central zones – have already eliminated the unmanned crossings.
Not only that, the Budget proposes that expert international assistance be taken to ensure the safety of the trains and passengers as well as improve the maintenance of trains.
The countries that are expected to help Indian Railways in these areas are Japan, South Korea, France and Italy – all known for their highly efficient and safe rail transport systems.
To ensure that passengers do not face hassles of any kind while travelling, the government has proposed that a single window interface to register all coach related complaints and requirements be formed. To be called Coach Mitra Facility, the interface will register and address all complaints of passengers.
Lifts and escalators will be constructed in around 500 stations for differently abled people.
At the same time, around 7000 stations across the country will switch to solar power in the next few years.
The plan size of the Railways has been raised to Rs.1,31,000 crore for 2017-18. As part of the expansion plan, an additional 3,500 km of railway lines will be laid in 2017-18. This is 800 km more than last year.
Another big news for the Railways is that shares of IRCTC and IRFC will be listed on stock exchanges. This will help in increasing the revenue of the railways.
Jaitley also said that the merger of the budgets does not take away the autonomy of the Indian Railways. The Railways will continue to function as they have been doing.