Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Lalu's Rail Budget 2008-09

I think Lalu has done what many Railway ministers could not do earlier - implement the ideas given by a large number of IRS officers. As a result, for the first time, several schemes/plans which exist in railways in several other countries will be soon visible. This will be possible because private and professional agencies will be involved along with government. This is what I feel is an excellent synergy between govt and private partnership or rather - combination of socialism and capitalism ideas which will never work in US. Also, Standford, Harvard univ students have personally come to understand how debt fallen Railways turned into a major profit making enterprise. I was surprised when my roommate's brother was one of those from Stanford who personally went to meet Lalu. KUDOS TO LALU!!!! The new schemes:

  • Introduce on-line boards telling the arrival, departure times, distances left and covered - all these data to be displayed first on night and overnight trains
  • Booking tickets through mobile phone (already booking through internet is a revolution introduced during BJP govt), and getting tickets on vending machines present everywhere in the next 2 years (will surely be done becoz private agencies are involved)
  • E-tickets extended to waitlisted tickets
  • Now the ticket print out will print the latest expected arrival time too.
  • Steel coaches to be introduced in the next 2 years that increases capacity and decreases maintenance cost
  • Discharge free toilets will be introduced in Western Railways on a pilot basis
  • Cleaning of toilets "on the move" not just in originating station and intermediate station
  • Simple schemes like making railway platform more friendly to elderly and aged people by giving appropriate shelters,foot over bridges, vending machines with food stuffs etc
  • "Smart Card" for seasonal and weekly travel will be introduced like Metropass in NYC or Delhi Metro. This will be done only in suburbs.
  • Dedicated freight corridors connecting N, S, E and W of india - on the lines of Golden Quadrilateral will be introduced
  • Free monthly seasonal tickets to school girls, Also porters/coolies will now also get additional job of manning the unmanned stations with increase in pay and perks
  • Senior women get 50% concession as against 30% on tickets
  • CFL bulbs to replace incandescent bulbs that will help reduce power consumption to drastic levels
So reduced fares and surplus of 20,000 crore Rupees as profit is a major push to Indian railways. It is really great to see some simple schemes to clean up Railways. There are several issues like safety which still haven't been addressed. What has been good over the years is new tracks, new rails have been introduced, but quality and customer service has been very bad. Credit must be given to Lalu for introducing or rather implementing the proposed schemes that has and will continue to change the shape of Railways. The day is not far when travel by Rail will be better than by flight in terms of service.

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