Merged Rail Bud­get takes safety and re­form route ON THE RIGHT TRACK

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - HT Navi Mumbai Live - - FRONT PAGE - Sri­nand Jha let­ters@hin­dus­tan­times.com

There weren’t any new trains flagged off from the House. There weren’t any an­nounce­ments of all-new fac­to­ries or lofty prom­ises of sur­veys for new lines.

Fi­nance min­is­ter Arun Jait­ley meant busi­ness in the first Union bud­get that sub­sumed the sta­te­owned trans­porter’s an­nual fi­nan­cial plan, and he showed it with a fo­cus on re­form and safety even as the out­lay for the rail­ways hit a high of `1,31,000 crore.

Jait­ley an­nounced the cre­ation of a Rashtriya Rail Sam­rak­sha Kosh (RRSK) or Rail Safety Fund with a `1 lakh crore cor­pus. The fund will en­sure an an­nual ex­pen­di­ture of `20,000 crore on safety-re­lated work, in­clud­ing track re­newal and sig­nal up­grades.

While the fi­nance min­is­ter left pas­sen­ger­fare­sun­changed­toavoid any fall­out on up­com­ing state elec­tions, sources in the gov­ern­ment said a hike would fol­low at a later date. Jait­ley an­nounced a waiver of the ser­vice charge on e-tick­ets and spoke about a num­ber of steps to im­prove pas­sen­ger ameni­ties such as a “Coach Mi­tra” fa­cil­ity that pro­vides a sin­gle win­dow in­ter­face for all coach-re­lated re­quire­ments or com­plaints.

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