Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu did not hike passenger fares this year and instead proposed to harness news sources of revenue in the next fiscal year in his speech while presenting the Rail Budget 2016.
The minister announced a planned outlay of Rs. 1.21 lakh crore and set the revenue generation target at Rs 1,84,820 crore. Prabhu said the Rail Budget was aimed at meeting the needs of the common man, and introduced a slew of facilities and amenities for improved train travel for passengers. Some of these amenities include bio-toilets, entertainment facilities, and Wi-Fi services.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed Prabhu's Rail Budget through his official Twitter account, stating that it "showcases a vision to reorganise, restructure & rejuvenate Railways with new processes, structures, norms & sources of revenue."
"Rail Budget 2016 caters to all sections of society. It stands out because it is an infrastructure-led & employment generating budget," the PM said.
UPDATES so far
13:10 p.m. IST: Railway Minsiter Suresh Prabhu has ended his budget speech. Prabhu did not announce any passenger fare hike this year.
Lok Sabha has been adjourned till 2:15 p.m. IST.
13:09 p.m. IST: Railway Ministry to offer internships to 100 students every year.
13:04 p.m. IST: The Railway Ministry will use drone and satellite technology to review progress on major projects. It will be launched for a dedicated freight corridor in the next financial year.
13:01 p.m. IST: "Chennai to get India's first rail auto hub."
12: 59 p.m. IST: The Railway Ministry aims to generate 10-20% of revenues from non-tariff sources in the next five years: Prabhu
12: 54 p.m. IST: Mumbai trains: The ministry is working on awarding tenders for two elevated suburban corridors between Churchgate-Virar and Chhattrapati Shivaji Terminus-Panvel.
12:50 p.m. IST: "Coolies to be called Sahayaks": Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu
12:48 p.m. IST: New amenities announced: automatic doors, bar-code readers, bio-vacuum toilets, entertainment screens, ergonomic seating, etc.
12:46 p.m. IST: "Changing boards for babies in train toilets, baby food at stations."
12:42 p.m. IST: The railway ministry will introduced a sub-quota of 33% for women in each of the reserved categories.
12: 40 p.m. IST: "For the unreserved passenger, we will add a few Deen Dayalu coaches to long-distance trains to increase capacity. For reserved passengers, we are starting three new products."
12:36 p.m. IST: The Railway Ministry will introduce a fully unreserved, "super-fast" train service on "dense" routes.
12:33 p.m. IST: "All railway stations to be brought under CCTV surveillance in a phased manner."
12:31 p.m. IST: "We intend to commission Wi-Fi services at 100 stations this year and 400 more stations in the next two years in partnership with Google."
12:28 p.m. IST: "17,000 bio-toilets will be set up by the end of this financial year in keeping with the Swacch Bharat Mission": Prabhu
12:26 p.m. IST: "Social media has been used for feedback and complaints redressal mechanism."
12:22 p.m. IST: Prabhu says connectivity to north-eastern states is of utmost priority to the government.
12:19 p.m. IST: "We have proposed to electrify 2,000 kilometres next year." The Railway Ministry has increased the outlay for railway electrification by almost 50%, Prabhu said.
12: 15 p.m. IST: The capital plan has been pegged at Rs. 1.21 lakh crore for 2016-17.
12: 13 p.m. IST: "This year, our investment will be double the average of previous years, a feat never achieved before": railway Minister Suresh Prabhu.
12:12 p.m. IST: "For 2016-17 we expect the operating ratio of 92% and revenue generation of Rs 1,84,820 crore."
12: 07 p.m. IST: "We hope to generate revenues 10.1 % higher than the revised target by next year.
12: 06 p.m. IST: "This is a budget which reflects the aspirations of the common citizens of India."
12:05 p.m. IST: Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu begins presenting Rail Budget 2016.
11:43 a.m. IST: #RailBudget2016 is the top Twitter trend in India Thursday.
11:19 a.m. IST: The BSE Sensex recovered about 39 points early Thursday ahead of the Rail Budget, according to the Press Trust of India.
11:16 a.m. IST: Union Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu reaches Rail Bhawan. "Hope we'll be successful in addressing the needs and aspirations of the people of the country," he said, according to ANI news agency.
9:54 a.m. IST: The Rail Budget has been prepared keeping in view the needs of common man, Manoj Sinha, Minister of State for the Railways Ministry, told ANI news agency.
9:46 a.m. IST: The Railway Ministry just tweeted a Periscope link of "Breakfast with Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu."
9:35 a.m. IST: Copies of the Rail Budget 2016 have been brought to the Parliament, according to ANI news agency.
Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu will present the Rail Budget 2016-17 in Parliament at noon Thursday, ending speculations whether passenger fares and fright fares will be raised or will be kept untouched.
While some reports suggest that the ministry will hike rail fares to make up for financial strains, others suggest that the upcoming state elections will deter the Modi government from such a move.
An increased plan outlay of Rs 1.25 lakh crore is expected, which will be directed to capacity creation, electrification, modernisation of yards and upgradation of safety.
Minister of State for Railways Manoj Sinha said that the 2016 Rail Budget will be the "budget of transformation of Indian Railways," according to ANI news agency.
[1 lakh = 100,000 | 1 crore = 10 million | 100 crore = 1 billion]