For the third successive year, the Railway Budget for 2011-12 spared the passengers of any increase in fares and proposed no hike in freight rates while introducing 56 new trains, including nine non-stop Duronto trains and three Shatabdis.
Presenting her third budget in UPA-II in the Lok Sabha, Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee announced a slew of concessions including reducing the eligibility age of senior women citizens from 60 to 58 years and the fare concession for men above 60 from 30 to 40 per cent.
Apparently with an eye on the coming Assembly polls in West Bengal, where she is projected as the chief minister candidate of Congress-Trinamool combine, she came out with a number of projects for the state, including a metro coach factory in Singur, Rail Industrial Park in Jelligham, an integrated suburban network for Kolkata and 34 new services for the Kolkata metro.
Her announcements for the state evoked protests from members including those from Bihar, UP and Kerala, but she appealed to them to be patient for her other announcements.
The Minister also extended the concession for physically- challenged persons and Kirti and Shaurya Chakra awardees to travel in Rajdhani and Shatabdi trains, besides extending facility of card passes to parents of unmarried posthumous Paramvir Chakra and Ashok Chakra gallantry award winners.
She also proposed to induct 16,000 ex-servicemen in the Railways by March.
The budget proposes the highest-ever plan outlay of Rs 57,630 crore for 2011-12. The gross budgetary support has been projected at Rs 20,000 crore, diesel cess Rs 1,041 crore, internal resources Rs 14,219 crore and market borrowing at Rs 20,954 crore.
The budget estimates for 2011-12 projects a freight loading of 993 million tonnes and a passenger growth of 6.4 per cent.
Gross traffic receipts has been estimated at Rs 1,06,239 crore, exceeding the Rs one lakh crore mark for the first time, despite pressure on finances on account of Pay Commission payout.
Ordinary working expenses have been assessed at Rs 73,650 crore and appropriation to depreciation reserve fund pegged at Rs 7,000 crore.
Provision of Rs 6,735 crore has been made for dividend payment and the excess for Railways for the new fiscal has been projected at Rs 5,258 crore, with an operating ratio of 98.1 per cent.