The Indian Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu recently presented his second Railway Budget with the promise of better service and security. This railway budget aspires to achieve better safety and hygiene standards and a slew of measures to improve customer experience.
One of the highlights of this budget was no hike in the fares across any category. Moving forward the porters will also be called ‘sahayaks’ and will be trained on soft skills.
SUPERFAST TRAIN FOR UNRESERVED:
Antyodaya Express, a long-distance, fully unreserved, superfast train service, for the common man to be operated on the dense routes. Also two to four Deen Dayal coaches will be added in some long distance trains for unreserved travel for the masses. These coaches will also have facility for potable drinking water and a higher number of mobile charging point.’
1,600 km of electrification this year and 2,000 km proposed for the next year.
SMART COACHES TO BE INTRODUCED:
SMART (Specially Modified Aesthetic Refreshing Travel) coaches will transform the railway experience of the customers laded with amenities like automatic doors, bar-code readers, bio-vacuum toilets, water-level indicators, accessible dustbins, ergonomic seating, improved aesthetics, vending machines, entertainment screens, LED lit boards for advertising, PA system and more. The Rail ministry is planning to redesign the layout of the coaches for higher capacity.
EASY TICKETING FACILITY ON STATIONS:
Railways plans to introduce sale of tickets through hand held terminals for the urban areas and people travelling for short distance. This will help to cater more public with minimal infrastructure requirement. Now tickets could be purchased at the stations through vending machines which will handle not only cash but debit/credit card facility.
Plan is also there to open the e-ticketing facility to foreign debit/credit cards for foreign tourists and NRI’s. . Bar coded tickets, scanners and access control on a pilot basis on major stations to tackle the menace of ticketless travel and ensure hassle free travel for passengers will be introduced.
STEPS TO STOP TAKTAL FORGING:
Prabhu said that there will be CCTV cameras installed at Taktal counters to ensure clean transactions. Proposed plan to institutionalize a system of third party periodic audits and certification of security features of the PRS website. The railways will also introduce bar-coded tickets on pilot basis to tackle menace of ticketless travel. Customers will be able to access cancellation facility through 139 helpline number.
RESERVATION FOR WOMEN AND SENIOR CITIZENS:
Railway plans to increase the reservation quota from women to 33% and increase the lower berth quota for senior citizens by 50%.
HUMSAFAR, TEJAS and UDAY initiatives:
Humsafar would be fully airconditioned third AC service with an optional service for meals.
“Tejas, on the other hand will showcase the future of train travel in India. Operating at speeds of 130 kmph and above, it will offer onboard services such as entertainment, local cuisine, Wi-Fi, etc. through one service provider for ensuring accountability and improved customer satisfaction," he announced.
Overnight double-decker trains – the Uday Express to be introduced on busiest routes increasing the capacity by 40% and catering to the business community.
GIVING THE BEST CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE:
Railways will install information boards in the trains, listing the onboard services and will install GPS based digital displays to facilitate customers with the information of next halt. Railways is also looking at inviting FM Radio stations for providing train borne entertainment by installing PA systems in trains.
The Indian Railways also aims at developing 400 stations, to be equipped with Wi-Fi out of which 100 will be completed by this year end.
SWACH RAIL – the CLEAN TOILETS initiative:
Introducing new service where a customer will be able to request to clean his coach through an SMS. The initiative is coined as ‘Clean my Coach’ service. Around 17,000 bio-toilets and additional toilets in 475 stations will be established before end of this year.
BETTER FOOD SERVICES:
Railways also aim to expand the e-catering services from present 45 stations to all 408 'A-1' and 'A' class stations. Local cuisine of choice will be made available to passengers. It will also look into the possibility of booking food along with the tickets.
Apart from this they are looking forward to introduce children's menu items on trains along with the option of baby foods, hot milk and hot water and changing boards for babies to be provided in train toilets.
RAIL MITRA SEWA and ACCESSIBLE INDIA:
Railways has introduced SarathiSeva in Konkan Railway to help the old and disabled passengers requiring assistance at stations. "We will expand this service at many more stations. We will strengthen the existing services for enabling passengers to book battery operated cars, porter services, etc. on a paid basis in addition to the existing pick up and drop, and wheel chair services," Prabhu said.
In accordance with the "Accessible India" campaign, Railways plans to ensure that all stations under redevelopment are accessible by Divyang. "We will make efforts to provide at least one Divyang friendly toilet at each platform in A1 class stations during the next financial year and also ensure availability of wheelchairs in sufficient numbers at these stations," he said.