Elections on mind, minister looks to clean up his rlys' act

Written by fe Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: Feb 27 2013, 08:59am hrs
Though just four months into the ministry, PK Bansal is no stranger to rail travel and the terrible state of cleanliness at stations and trains. He did some plain-speaking about his own travails, saying, As a frequent traveller, I have experienced this personally.

Apart from measures to improve passenger amenities, Bansal has proposed steps to modernise the railways. These include enhanced use of green technology and free Wi-Fi facility on several trains.

The budget also proposed to introduce an Anubhuti coach in select trains , to provide excellent ambience and modern facilities and services, as well as install 179 escalators and 400 lifts at A-1 and other major stations to help the elderly and differently abled.

Being the first Congress minister to present a rail budget in 17 years and, probably, the last before the general elections slated for the next year, Bansal was careful to propose the setting up of new industries /workshops in party president Sonia Gandhi's constituency, Rae Bareli where a new forged wheel factory is to come up as well as in other Congress-ruled states like Rajasthan, Haryana and Andhra Pradesh.

There was also a workshop for repair and rehabilitation of motorised bogies in the Opposition BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh, a new wagon maintenance workshop in the BJD-ruled Orissa and a modern signaling equipment facility at Chandigarh through the PPP route.

The green initiatives included the setting up of a Railway Energy Management Company to harness the potential of solar and wind energy, building 75-MW capacity windmill plants and energising 1,000 level crossings with solar power and deployment of new generation energy efficient electric locomotives and electric multiple units. Besides, the budget has proposed progressive extension of bio-toilets on trains.

The minister also promised extension of an On-Board Housekeeping Scheme and Clean Trains Stations to more stations and trains. To augment infrastructure and revamp the facilities at Delhi, New Delhi and Hazrat Nizamuddin, works costing R100 crore have been taken up, he said. The minister assured a provision of wheel chairs and battery operated vehicles at more stations and making coaches wheel-chair friendly.

Other measures include a third-party audit and tie up with food testing laboratories for food quality control.