Countdown for 2016-17 Rail Budget kicks off with all new Challenges

Challenges steep, but Railway Minister Suresh Prabhakar Prabhu may deliver a great Rail Budget!

Railway Budget 2016New Delhi: Countdown for the 2016-17 Rail Budget has kicked off with Railways, apparently for the first time, inviting suggestions and innovative ideas from the public to include them in its budget. Two key issues, improving the existing passenger amenities in trains and at stations and maximum utilisation of the high class technology available for running of trains — should be be of paramount importance for Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu, when he presents the Rail Budget in Parliament in the last week of February.

Prabhu’s budget has to be passenger-oriented — not in terms of introduction of new trains — but vast improvements of the existing facilities at stations and platforms, several of which are still ‘unfriendly’ for the differently abled and elders and the quality of food served to the commuters in trains. The railway minister and his team has to find ways to improve the quality of food served in trains by leaps and bounds.  It is an open secret that the travelling passengers fume at the poor quality of the food served in trains. They would not mind paying more if Railways ensure proper quality of food in trains.

Instead of coming up with Foot Over Bridges (FOBs) at the stations, Prabhu should seriously consider construction of subways at some of the important stations to connect the platforms. This project can be implemented in a phase-wise manner for the next few fiscals. These subways will surely be welcome by senior citizens and the differently abled as they dread to climb the steep steps of the FOBs.

At present the Kharagpur railway station in West Bengal and some stations in Uttar Pradesh have such subways and one should experience the ease with which passengers move from one platform to the other using those subways. After all, if the Metro rail stations in Delhi and Kolkata can have subways, why cannot Indian Railways have it?

The Railways has to concentrate to do away with the shabby look some of the stations have and ensure that all stations have proper display boards to guide commuters to the ticket windows and platforms. The loading and unloading of the parcels, bedrolls and food items in trains should be done at the depots rather than at the stations, which will go a long way in decongesting the stations and quicker movement of trains.

These measures certainly are important ones that will enable the national carrier to win over the hearts of millions of passengers. On the technology front, the Railways must do away with the bottlenecks at the tracks so that the trains can run at greater speed. These bottlenecks like railway crossings, weak bridges, congestion at stations force the high-speed trains to slow down. For example in the Delhi-Mumbai route there are over 150 spots where trains have to slow down due to these bottlenecks increasing the travel time.

If Railways is able to pay attention to these aspects, many of the trains can run at a much greater speed benefiting both the  commuters and the Railways.

Commuters, on their part, have to be far more responsible to keep stations, platforms and trains clean. Railways are doing their bit on this aspect but if the station premises and trains are unclean, commuters have to be held responsible for littering of filth and spitting.

Prabhu and his team is working overtime to carry out several reforms to make the national carrier more financially healthier and improve its performance. And if Indian Railways is able to put greater focus on passenger amenities and maximum utilisation of the technology, Prabhu could emerge as the best-ever Railway minister that India has ever had.

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