By Preet Kiran
New Delhi, Jan 24 (IANS) The Central government is going to present the Rail Budget on February 1 along with the General Budget – as has been the practice ever since the Narendra Modi government came to power, ahead of the Assembly elections scheduled to be held in the five states.
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will present her fourth budget on February 1 and according to sources, the Central government is going to increase the outlay for the rail budget this time by 15-20 per cent. Last year, the government had allocated Rs 1,10,055 crore to the Railways. This time, an amount of around Rs 2.5 lakh crore is likely to be earmarked.
Ahead of the budget, there is an atmosphere of enthusiasm in many sectors related to railways.
The Central government might announce new railway facilities for the passengers.
The Railways has suffered a loss of Rs 26,338 crore in the past one year. However, despite the losses incurred during the Covid-induced crisis period, experts believe that there is a little chance of witnessing a hike in the train fares.
The Railways is also said to be considering measures excluding upping the fare to increase its earnings.
During the Covid period, most of the earnings of the Railways came from freight. Therefore, an effort would be made by the Railways to prepare different freight corridors which will also reduce the pressure on passenger trains.
About 10 new light trains (aluminium-built) could be announced for long distance travel in the rail budget.
Plans are being made to strengthen the rail connectivity of the election-bound states and metro cities. For these, the government might involve some private companies.
A bullet train could also be announced between Delhi and Varanasi.
The solar-power capacity would be developed in Indian Railways to reduce dependence on electricity and diesel, as well as to reduce carbon emissions.
Along with this, the target of 100 per cent electrification by 2030 would be announced in the National Rail Plan.
Re-development projects would be announced for the betterment of the stations through the PPP model. For this, 12 corridors have been identified. Several companies had shown interest in it.
This year, the government might also announce the formation of a Rail Development Authority, which would provide suggestions to the government on fare-related issues.
Plans are likely to be implemented for the development of more projects like Tejas to connect various tourist destinations across the country.
Also, more emphasis would be given on development of dedicated freight corridors.
In this, the East-West Corridor from Bhusaval via Kharagpur to Dankuni and the North-South Corridor starting from Itarsi to Vijayawada has already been announced.
While announcing the last railway budget, the Finance Minister had also announced the National Rail Plan 2030 for the development of railways.
It was announced to give a new look to the railway facilities. The Central government has already planned to invest around Rs 1 lakh crore.
By December 2023, 100 per cent electrification of the major railway lines will be completed.
Also, the metro rail system is being prepared in the outer parts of two Tier-2 category cities and Tier-1 category cities, under which Indian Railways aims to become “the world’s first 100 per cent green rail service” by 2030.
Along with this, the Central government could announce the adoption of hyperloop technology in the rail budget this time. In this, pods carrying passengers travel through tubes or tunnels. This mode of transportation is faster than bullet train.
The government could also make big announcements regarding infrastructure in the budget. Re-development of 500 railway stations could be announced in this budget, to be named ‘Kayakalp’ by the government.
By Preet Kiran