At a time when the Indian Railways is struggling with falling revenues, Rail Minister Suresh Prabhu has a tough task ahead to boost the non-tariff revenues and at the same time cut the expenses of the country's largest infrastructure network.
Railways earnings have fallen by 3.77 per cent to Rs 136,079.26 crore as against the target of Rs 141,416.05 crore. The Rail Budget is expected to focus on massive capacity creation with an increased outlay of Rs 1.25 lakh crore.
While the common man as always remains most anxious about hike in passenger fares, various announcements are expected on high speed trains and incorporation of technology for modernisation and revamp of Railways, considered to be the lifeline of the people.
Here are some major proposals likely to be announced by Prabhu in the Rail Budget 2016-17 on Thursday that may affect you:
Passenger fare: Though the industry body Assocham has called for a hike in fares calling it a necessity for the Indian Railways, it is unlikely that the Rail Minister will make any changes in the pasenger fares in the Rail Budget.
New trains: Struggling to increase its earnings, Railways may put more special trains into service. For Mumbai, new AC suburban trains, with increased fares than that of local trains, may be announced.
Extra coach: All trains may see an extra general coach added to them in which passengers can travel with a general ticket, without any reservation. According to the current rule, a maximum of 24 coaches are allowed in a train. Premier trains may be left out of this new addition.
High speed trains: The bogies of Shatabdi Express are likely to be replaced by the ones used in semi-high speed trains. For high speed trains, the coaches may be retrofitted with Linke Hofmann Busch (LHB) to enable them to run at a speed of 200 km per hour. A scheme for high speed parcel train may also be unveiled.
Revamped coaches: A new state-of-the-art furnishing of coaches is likely to be announced. Trains may also get new colour schemes to make the Indian Railways look more rejuvenated and lively.
Linen: Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) of the linen could be announced in the Rail Budget 2016-17 to prevent pilferage.
Passenger amenities: The 'Anubhuti' coaches with premier services scheme that was announced in the Rail Budget 2013-14, may be revived.
Safety: The AC coaches may get two-way swinging door for easy evacuation of passengers in case of emergencies. The fire and smoke detection techniques in the coaches may be extended and improved upon.
Cleanliness: Extending the Swachh Bharat Mission to the Railways, Prabhu may announce upgrade of toilets and place more dustbins in coaches and rail premises.
Green stations: As many as 400 stations may be announced as green stations, which will be developed with private partnerships. These stations will have a number of green initiatives like LED lighting, solar power, recycling of water and conversion of waste into energy.
New projects: Construction of six new railway lines and a bridge may be announced by Prabhu in the Rail Budget on Thursday. Four new dedicated freight corridors are likely to be added to the rail network. The doubling of Hubli-Chickajur broad gauge single railway line (190 km long) is also likely to feature in the budget. The Indian Railways is expected to undertake only financially viable projects while other socially desired projects may be implemented through joint ventures with state governments.