As expected, the Narendra Modi government's first Railway Budget put thrust on technology and modernization to revamp Indian Railways; from wi-fi facilities to bullet trains, and from automated closing doors to workstations-on-wheels, the Budget presented by Union Railways Minister DV Sadananda Gowda on Tuesday had it all.
Prime Minister Modi himself called it a "modern railway budget".
"This budget will prove to be the growth engine of modern India. It is a modern railway budget. It will speed up the development of the whole country," Modi told the media, minutes after the Budget presentation ended in the Parliament.
Here are a few promises made in the Railway Budget 2014-15 that will give a modern look to Indian Railways:
- High-Speed Trains - Bullet trains will soon be a reality, with Gowda saying that the government will push for one on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad sector at the earliest. Gowda announced ₹100 crore for a high-speed rail network in the country, and said that speeds of trains in nine sectors will be increased to up to 200 kilometres per hour.
The Budget also announced 50 new trains including 27 express trains, five premium trains and six AC express trains.
- Safety through Technology - The Budget has proposed the introduction of advanced technology for rail-flaw detection to check causes of accidents. A pilot project will be launched on automatic door closing in mainline and sub-urban coaches.
- "International Standard" Stations - The Budget put a lot of focus on modernizing passenger amenities at stations, stating that the government wants stations to be on par with international ones. The railway minister proposed wi-fi facilities at A1 category stations, food courts at major stations, and lifts and escalators, along with battery-operated cars to make the stations disabled-friendly. Gowda also promised to develop 10 metro stations with state-of-the-art facilities.
- Office-on-Wheels - Gowda promised internet and workstation facilities on select trains. The railways will also have an IVRS system for feedback on catering in trains.
- Advanced Railway Booking - Gowda promised expanding the scope of online booking and facilitating ticket booking through mobile phones. He also proposed online reservation of retiring rooms.
- Social Media - Even before the session began, Gowda said that he plans to make the railways more interactive, announcing Twitter and Facebook ids for the railways.
- Indian Railways to go Paperless, Digital Reservation Charts - Gowda said that in the next five years, Indian offices will be paperless, and that reservation charts at railway stations will become digital.
- Green Energy in Railways - In a further step to modernize railways and make them energy-freindly, Gowda promised to bring bio-fuel in locomotives and to harness solar energy.