Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Rail Budget 2013-14 Live: Pawan Bansal reaches Rail Bhavan

New Delhi: Union Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal has reached Rail Bhawan. He is set to present the Railway Budget 2013-14 in the Parliament on Tuesday amid expectations that several new trains and more passenger-friendly measures.

All eyes are on the Railway Minister as he presents his maiden Rail Budget as to whether he would yield to the pressure and hike the fares once again to revive the ‘derailing’ Indian Railways or will he look towards other measures to drive the source.

Bansal is the first Congress minister to be presenting the Rail Budget in last 17 years.

Sources told Zee News that there will be no direct increase in passenger fares but fuel adjustment charge and other surcharges may be levied. Railway Minister had recently told reporters that the increase in diesel prices following the fare hike has negated the additional revenue of Rs 3,300 crore which Railways was expected to mop up.

Besides the fare hike, it is expected that he will announce the introduction of about 100 trains, including AC double deckers, new passenger services and extension of services to cater to the demands of various states in the Rail Budget 2013-14.

Earlier on January 22, the Ministry had effected passenger fare hike across the board by 21 percent, aiming to mop up an additional revenue of Rs 6,600 crore.

As far as rolling stock programme is concerned, the announcement will be made for manufacturing of 4200 new coaches including 600 LHB coaches in the Rail Budget.

While provision for manufacturing of 670 new locomotives including 20 LNG locos will be made, the budget will also account for manufacturing of about 16,000 new wagons.

Bansal is also likely to announce a slew of passenger-friendly measures such as improvement in catering service, development of stations and launching of about 100 new trains in his maiden budget on February 26.

Speaking to the media a day ahead of prsenting his maiden rail budget, Bansal promised a 24X7 helpline for women that will be tracked real time, with top priority accorded to safety of passengers, especially women.

Bansal has had several rounds of discussions with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Finance Minister P Chidambaram and the Planning Commission in connection with the Rail Budget. He is also understood to have discussed the possibility of fare hike with Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

However, sources said that a section inside the Congress is not inclined towards effecting another round of hike as general elections are not far away.

The budget could also see some tinkering in freight rates despite resistance from the industry in the wake of slow economy growth.

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