Faced with a revenue shortfall, Railway Minister Mallikarjun Kharge will not bring about reduction in basic passenger fares in the interim budget but is likely to make adjustment in fuel adjustment component so that impact on fares is minimum in an election year.
Take a look at ten things that you can expect from the Railways Vote on Account 2014:
1) Fares: There are indications that passenger fares may not be touched barring minor changes in a few segments in the first rail budget to be presented by Kharge.
In a bid to give passengers relief from the impending fare hike in April due to implementation of fuel adjustment component (FAC), Kharge is likely to make some adjustment in FAC so that impact on passenger fares is minimum.
2) Safety measures: Better passenger amenities and safety are expected to be on top of Kharge’s agenda. He is likely to announce measures to enhance safety for passengers such as installation of fire safety system, use of fire-retardant material in more trains while announcing implementation of Train Collision and Avoidance System (TCAS) on more routes.
3) Passenger friendly mesaures: He is expected to focus on more passenger-friendly measures like installation of upgraded real-time train information system at stations and operation of automatic ticket vending machines at many stations.
4) Premier trains: The announcement of running 20 premier trains on dynamic fares as a step to arrest the fall in passenger revenue is likely to be made.
5) More trains, new lines: Kharge is likely to announce more trains, new lines and better passenger amenities in the interim budget.
6) Growth oriented: Railway Ministry sources said it will be a growth-oriented budget and not a deficit one despite fall in earnings. Freight and passenger earnings have shown a decline during the April-December 2013 period. While freight earnings are short by about Rs 850 crore, the decrease in passenger revenue is about Rs 4000 crore.
Though the then Railway Minister Lalu Prasad had announced a two per cent fare cut in passenger segment in the interim budget of 2009, Kharge is unlikely to do so now given the dismal financial scenario.
7) Electrification: The interim rail budget will also focus on electrification of more routes so that dependence on diesel is less. Railways are likely to take up about 1500 km route for electrification in the next fiscal. Currently, only about 24,000 km is electrified out of the total 65,000 km route.
8) Progress report: In his first budget presentation, Kharge will talk about the progress and development work undertaken by the national transporter in the last ten years.
9) Project work: The vote-on-account is likely to mention the expeditious work on coaching complex for maintenance facility at Gulberga.
On the mega project front, Kharge will mention the speedy work on dedicated freight corridor and work sanction on the 66 km long Mughalsarai and Sonnagar link as part of the project.
10) Revenue: Kharge has expressed serious concern over falling revenue and categorically asked officials to undertake all possible steps to arrest the further fall in earnings in the recent General Managers meeting.
While the working expenses have gone up by about Rs 5,000 crore during April-December period, the revenue earnings have decreased by over Rs 4,000 crore.