No effort will be spared to rein in costs at all levels

Updated: Feb 27 2013, 09:04am hrs
Confronted with the task of balancing the deficit and generating revenues, PK Bansal, in his maiden railway budget, stayed away from increasing passenger fares, but hiked freight charges. Excerpts from a press conference:

What positives can passengers look for in the rail way budget

There is no hike in the basic fares. The increase in reservation charges will help provide better services. We have not touched the fares for non-reserved compartments. With a revamp of the IRCTC website, the ticketing capacity will increase from 40,000 users a minute to 1.2 lakh users a minute.

Why the hike in freight and reservation charges

The implementation of the Sixth Pay Commission had put pressure on railway finances. We have proposed a marginal hike in reservation/cancellation fees so that we can provide better services to passengers. The idea is to ensure that only genuine passengers use the reservation facility, instead of middlemen cornering a chunk of tickets. This will help smoothen the reservation process. We have imposed a marginal hike in freight charges of 4-8 paise per kg. This will offset the increase in diesel prices and electricity tariff during the last one year.

Trinamool Congress MPs reacted strongly to your speech. What does the Budget have for West Bengal

Trinamool Congress members created a ruckus and reached the Well of the House even before I announced the measures. In fact, I have started seven new trains to West Bengal; nine trains to the state are being extended or their frequency increased. So, I do not understand their reaction.

What is being done to rein in the cost of railways

Private investments are needed to stimulate growth in the Indian economy as the financial health of the railways is linked to the countrys GDP. We will take measures to curb costs at all levels. No efforts will be spared in this regard.

What gains do you see for the railways

I am thankful to rural development minister Jairam Ramesh for having accepted the railways proposal to employ NREGA workers for laying of railway lines. We are in talks with various ministries for setting up a Railway Fare Authority. We will shortly move a Cabinet note on that.

Investments of R9,000 crore are expected; these include R3,800 crore for port connectivity and R800 crore for iron-ore mine connectivity. A Railway Energy Management company will be set up to harness solar and wind energy, while 47,000 vacancies for the weaker sections and the physically challenged will be filled up soon.