The annual budget for 2018-19, the second such budget after the railway budget was merged into the main budget, has a lot in store for the railways with the announcement of the highest ever capital expenditure for it.
Continuing with the practice initiated in 2016 by then Minister of Railways Suresh Prabhu of not announcing new trains – a hallmark of prior railway budgets – it saw major allocations for infrastructure development.
The budget saw the highest capital expenditure (capex) outlay of Rs 1.48 lakh crore for upgrading railways and improving passenger safety. 600 major railway stations would be redeveloped while those with daily footfalls above 25,000 would be equipped with CCTV cameras at a cost of Rs 3,000 crore and WiFi for commuters.
The focus for the railways this year would be to increase safety levels including higher maintenance, and using technology and fog safety mechanisms. The government will pursue electrification of tracks at a faster rate along with procuring 700 locomotives and 12,000 wagons to augment the railways’ capacity. Minister for Railways Piyush Goyal has fixed a target to reduce the working expenses by 20 per cent.
A sum of Rs 95,000 crore will be spent on upgrading rail infrastructure, replacing tracks, and automating signalling systems. Fares will remain unchanged with the railways looking at commercial capitalisation of other assets.
Rs 11,000 crore will be spent to double 90 km of railway tracks along the Mumbai Suburban Railway while Rs 40,000 crore will be spent to add another 150km to the network. Bengaluru will see an investment of Rs 17,000 crore towards setting up a 160 km long Commuter Rail network.