All eyes on Bansal for tomorrow's Rail Budget
All eyes will be on Railway
Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal tomorrow on whether he yields to
pressure of hiking passenger fares yet again or looks at other
measures to mobilise resources to offset the burden of the
recent diesel price hike.
Bansal had on January 22 hiked passenger fares across-the-
board after the Railways faced a loss of about Rs 25,000 crore
in the passenger segment.
Railways had aimed to mop up an additional revenue of Rs
6,600 crore but the fuel hike had wiped out Rs 3,300 crore,
Bansal had said.
The Rail Minister held several round 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 have discussed the possibility
of fare hike with Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
However, sources said a section of the Congress is not
inclined towards effecting another round of fare hike as
general elections are not far away.
Bansal is all set to announce a slew of passenger-friendly
measures such as improvement in catering service, maintaining
cleanliness at rail premises, introducing Braille stickers in
coaches for visually-challenged passengers and development of
stations in his maiden Rail Budget.
While there are possibilities of minor tinkering in
freight rates despite resistance from the industry due to the
slow economy growth, there will be some announcements of
freight schemes to attract more loadings in the next fiscal
With Bansal heading Rail Bhavan and the key ministry back
with the Congress party after almost one-and-a-half decade,
speculation is rife about announcement of 100 new trains
including AC double deckers, extension and increase of some
popular passenger services.
Though the Congress is opposing the Trinamool government
Bengal, MoS Railways Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury might have
say with likely provisions for new trains including Berhampur-
Sealdah passenger, a direct train for New Jalpaiguri from the
capital and pantry cars for Bengal-bound trains.