news Thursday, February 26, 2015 - 05:30

The News Minute | February 26, 2015 | 03:52 pm IST 

Union Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu's maiden budget, which he presented on Thursday, seems to have mostly received positive feedback for its consumer-centric approach. 

With a planned investment of Rs 8.5 lakh crore in the sector in the next five years, the 2015 Railway Budget's pivot lies in improving technology and capacity along with providing quality services to its customers.

Here are a few highlights from the Railway Budget 2015.  

Though no new trains have been introduced, there has also been no increase in the passenger fares. 

Indian Railways

'Cleanliness is a major area of dissatisfaction', said Prabhu. On the heels of the Swach Bharat Abhiyan, the Indian Railways (IR) will now work on Swachh Rail Swachh Bharat. The Centre is planning to create a new department for keeping stations and trains clean. IR also plans to set up ‘waste to energy’ conversion plants near major coaching terminals to dispose waste in an environment-friendly manner.

So far the IR has replaced the existing toilets with 17,388 bio toilets. This year 17,000 more bio-toilets will be fit in coaches.  Research, Design and Standards Organisation (RDSO) has been tasked with making available within a period of six months a design for vacuum toilets.

A programme to improve design, quality and cleanliness of bed linen will be launched within the next six months. NIFT, Delhi has been approached for designing the bed linen.

Indian Railways

An all-India 24X7 helpline number, 138, will be made available to passengers from March 1, 2015, to address grievances on a real-time basis. A mobile application to redress Railway-related complaints is also being developed. 

A toll-free number, 182, will also be made available to customers for receiving security-related complaints. For the safety of women passengers, surveillance cameras will be provided on a pilot basis in selected mainline coaches and ladies’ compartments of suburban coaches.

Indian Railways Ladies

A “SMS Alert” service to inform passengers in advance the updated arrival/departure time of trains at starting or destination stations will be introduced. The SMS alert will be also be sent 15/30 minutes in advance of arrival of the train at the destination.

Passengers travelling unreserved can purchase a ticket within five minutes.

For the differently-abled travellers, a special initiative is being launched whereby they can purchase concessional etickets after one-time registration. A facility for online booking of wheel chair on payment basis for senior citizens, patients and the differently-abled passengers through IRCTC on select stations will be provided to customers. Lifts and escalators have also been planned at major stations for the elderly and differently abled passengers.

Indian Railways Coach

Automatic ticket vending machines with smart cards and currency options have also been installed at many stations.

E-catering has been introduced in 108 trains on an experimental basis from January 2015. Passengers can also order food through IRCTC website at the time of booking of tickets.

Indian Railways Buffet Car

Wi-Fi service will be provided at all A1, A and B category stations.

The speed of 9 railway corridors will be increased from the existing 110 and 130 kmph to 160 and 200 kmph respectively so that inter-metro journeys like Delhi-Kolkata and Delhi-Mumbai can be completed overnight.

The frontline IR staff will be given special training on soft skills since they are the ones who directly deal with the passengers. 

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