With Railways reeling under a financial crunch, the number of new trains to be announced in the Rail Budget is unlikely to be more than 100, much less than what is the normal practice every year.
Rail Minister Suresh Prabhakar Prabhu, who is considered to be pro-reform, is unlikely to announce many rail projects despite demands from states as several unfinished works are already languishing over the years due to lack of funds.
It has been a popular practice of the Railways to announce launching of about 150 to 180 new trains in its budget every year. About 160 trains were announced last year.
According to sources, Prabhu may just take a different approach by not announcing too many new trains in his maiden budget speech and instead do it gradually over the course of the year.
“After weighing pros and cons of a radical proposal of not to announce any new train in the budget, it now seems that a revised proposal is being firmed up for going ahead with announcement of limited number of new trains,” they said.
There might also be a proposal to brand some of the trains in a move to generate additional funds.
As per the proposal, these trains will carry advertisements of some popular brands and may even be named on them such as the Coca Cola Express or Haldiram Express.
The Rail Budget is also likely to have proposal for more unreserved trains with general second class coaches such as the ‘Jan Sadharan Express’ on popular routes to facilitate travel for the common man. Besides some popular destinations will be connected with new service as tourist trains.
The Railway Budget will be presented in Parliament on February 26.
The Rail Budget 2015-16 might also have proposals for acquiring 20 train sets to run on some popular Rajdhani and Shatabdi routes.
Trains for Bihar, a political move considering the upcoming Assembly elections, and the northeast are also likely to be announced. Attempts are being made to maintain a regional balance while announcing new trains for states including Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, Bengal and Gujarat.
Rail Budget 2015-16 is also likely to offer business proposals for redevelopment of busy stations under PPP model.
Prabhu might also focus on aspects related to passenger satisfaction which include cleanliness, catering, linen, ease of access to booking information and tickets.
There might also be an announcement to set up an interactive customer portal in order to get direct feedback from passengers.
Currently, the cross-subsidy for passenger service from freight earnings is touching about Rs 24,000 crore annually.