Rail budget disappoints Mumbai's suburban commuters
Even as the railway budget presented Tuesday was described by the government as reformist and forward looking, many Mumbaikars called it dull and disappointing.
Mumbai’s suburban railway commuters' bodies on Tuesday said that they were disappointed with the budget as it had overlooked the hardships faced by about 75 lakh daily commuters even as the railway minister announced the much awaited introduction of AC local from the next fiscal.
"The suburban commuters had a lot of expectations from Union Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal. But his budget has been disappointing in many ways," National Railway Users' Consultative Committee member Subhash Gupta said.
Besides announcing introduction of 72 new local services across the suburban rail network in Mumbai, Bansal also acceded to the long-pending demand of an AC local.
With around 75 lakh people using the suburban rail network every day in the country's financial capital, local trains carry more than twice their capacity in the peak hours.
"The previous Railways Minister Dinesh Trivedi also had made a similar announcement in the last budget, saying there will be 75 new services across suburban network but even that promise has not yet been fulfilled due to shortage of rakes," Gupta said.
Mumbaikars were pinning hopes on Bansal as he is the first Railway Minister from a national party in the last 16 years, Gupta said, adding, "But that hope has been dashed as he completely overlooked the hardships faced by the 75 lakh daily suburban commuters."
Echoing Gupta's view, Mumbai Rail Pravasi Sangh general secretary, Kailash Verma said, "The suburban commuters have been given a short-shrift by the Railway Minister in the budget."
"We were expecting capacity addition in the local services by converting 12 rake trains into 15 rakes and nine rakes into 12 rakes. Here also the minister has disappointed us," Verma said.
People also said they could not be fooled into taking the "no fare hike" claim at face value, considering that the fares had been hiked in January.
"According to me, it is a dull budget. Railway fares had just been hiked and hence it was obvious not to hike them further. The (railway) minister has increased the tatkal and reservation fees which were not hiked earlier," said Sadhna Malkan, a home-maker.
Speaking about the online ticket reservation service, Khantil Shah, a communications professional, said it was high time that the railway ministry offered better and faster services.
"Being a frequent traveller, I am looking forward to better online services that our minister has promised by December," he said.
"Bansal said currently only 2,000 tickets per minute is supported by the booking system. The ministry should have known better, considering we have over 12,000 trains running nationwide. I hope the new system that promises booking of 7,200 tickets per minute is a success. Fingers crossed," Shah said.
Many Mumbai residents asked what was in store for the common man.
"I just want to know what is there for the common man in this budget, apart from a few promises, with a long waiting period. The minister said we have joined Russia, China and the US in freight carrying, but can I please ask him when are we going to join them in passenger travel," said Akshay Magji, a marketing professional.
"Can we please have good engines so that our railways can run faster and on time to stop making losses," said another hassled Mumbai commuter Ritwik Verma, an advertising professional.
"The minister has proposed a number of ambitious schemes but the moot point is how he is going to generate money for them," asked Sudhir Kumar, a software engineer.
"A number of schemes were proposed in the past few budgets but these have remained to be non-starters. The only silver lining, this year, is the emphasis on safety, recruitment of women in the Railway Protection Force and the proposal for rail tariff authority," said Biju Ummen, a branding professional.