Passenger safety, capital and development works, cleanliness, and finance and accounting reforms form the cornerstone of the policy for Indian Railways for the next financial year, finance minister Arun Jaitley announced while presenting the first combined Budget.
“The merger of the Railway Budget with the General Budget is a historic step. This decision brings the Railways to the centrestage of the government’s fiscal policy and would facilitate multi-modal transport planning between railways, highways and inland waterways,” Jaitley said.
The capital expenditure target for 2017-18 was marginally increased to R1.31 lakh crore as compared with R1.21 lakh crore in 2016-17, with gross budgetary support standing at R55,000 crore.
Keeping in mind the long-pending demand of the transporter, a Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh, or safety fund with a corpus of R1 lakh crore over the next five years has been created. This comes after a string of accidents that have claimed scores of lives in the past few months.
Facing falling freight traffic, the target for the next year has been incremented by 71.50 million tonne (MT) to 1,165 MT with a revenue target of R1.18 lakh crore. At R50,125 crore, the passenger traffic target is a tad below last year’s. The two together translate into gross traffic receipts of around R1.90 crore as compared with R1.84 crore last year.
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The operating ratio target has been fixed at 94.9 for the next financial year. Last year, the railways revised its operating ratio target from the estimated 92 to 94.9.
Since the budgets have been merged, the railways will not pay dividends from this year and this will support investments. “If I do not pay around R9,500 crore, this money is surplus with me and can be used for safety or other work,” said Railway Board chairman AK Mittal while addressing the media in New Delhi.
The railways will also set up five biodegradable waste to energy plants apart from the ones proposed at New Delhi and Jaipur railway stations.
By Saurabh Kumar