Rail Safety to be a priority in Railway Budget-2017

With 2017 going down in history as the year when the Rail Budget was subsumed in the General Budget, all eyes are set on the Budget Session scheduled to take place from Wednesday! It is expected of Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to present a separate statement of budget estimates and demand for grants in the General Budget.

NEW DELHI: With 2017 going down in history as the year when the Rail Budget was subsumed in the General Budget, all eyes are set on the Budget Session scheduled to take place from Wednesday. Following a long list of derailments that saw so many loss of lives, with more than 150 people from Kanpur train accident alone, the ministry is expected to introduce a safety tax to fund Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh, its 1.2 lakh crore safety body.

This may have a direct and significant effect on the second class and AC-3 tier tickets, while ticket prices of AC 1-tier and 2-tier will increase marginally.

The Railways, which has expected Rs. 1.84 lakh crore revenue in the current financial year, but has already lowered down it to Rs. 1.7 lakh crore, would definitely witness a boost in its finances due to the fare hike.

Rs.20,000 Crore ‘safety fund, infra development’ could top FM’s priorities for Railways

The ministry is also planning to reduce charges on freight, which holds the largest portion of rail revenue. The idea has been introduced to prevent the clients to move to other modes of transport.

It is expected of Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to present a separate statement of budget estimates and demand for grants in the General Budget.

It is also believed that, in order to meet part of its capital expenditure, Railways may also get budget support, and may also be allowed to raise extra budgetary sources.

The system of flexi-fare and dynamic pricing for premier trains is expected to continue in 2017-18. With the ministry having sought an exemption from paying dividends to the government this year, a combined budget may also save the Railways Rs. 10,000 crore.

The Indian Railways, a gigantic industry, employing 1.3 million people, carrying 24 million passengers in its 12,000 passenger trains everyday is one of the railway systems which only a few others in the world can outdo.

On the one hand, where the merger of both the budgets is expected to bring gains and save time of the parliamentarians by not having to approve and pass two separate bills, on the other hand it is believed to reduce the transparency of the railway accounts and their performance.

A safety fund of Rs 20,000 crore for Railways which is reeling under a series of deadly derailments could be the top focus as Finance Minister Arun Jaitley presents the first Rail Budget subsumed in the General Budget tomorrow. The fund could include development of new lines, station redevelopment and setting up of Rail Development Authority and High Speed Rail Authority, sources said.

Going ahead with the government’s reform agenda, Jaitley will discard the 92-year-long tradition of presentation of a separate Rail Budget and instead make it part of the General Budget earmarking a few paragraphs on the public transporter’s finance, projects and the road map for the next fiscal.

Jailtley is likely to give more focus on infrastructure development such as new lines, doubling, station redevelopment and safety upgradation among others.

Reeling under a series of derailments, the Budget is likely to announce creation of a separate safety fund of about Rs 1 lakh crore over the next five years out of which Rs 20,000 cr will be earmarked for 2017-18, according to sources.

Railways will also miss the operating ratio target of 92 per cent and is likely to settle at about 94-95 per cent.

The Budget 2017-18 is likely to announce setting up of Rail Development Authority, a regulatory authority for the public transporter. The formation of High Speed Rail Authority with the selection of its managing Director and other directors is also likely to be announced.

The Budget will also give a fillip to non-fare revenue exercise and monetising assets like vacant land, estimated to be about 48,000 hectares including redevelopment of stations with private participation.

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