Budget 2017: Hits and misses for Mumbai’s suburban railway commuters

Budget 2017: Hits and misses for Mumbai's suburban railway commuters
Representational Image. Picture Courtesy: Ravi Mowgli

In a first, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley presented the Railway budget as a part of the Union budget on Wednesday, allocating a total of Rs 1.31 lakh crore towards the sector’s development.

While the overall budget was well received, unlike previous budgets there weren’t any specific announcements pertaining to Mumbai’s suburban rail network.

Every year the city’s 75 lakh commuters look forward to the presentation hoping for favorable news pertaining to the development of the city’s lifeline.

Since the minister is expected to table the budget documents in the Parliament on February 3, the exact allocation of funds for the city’s suburban trains will only be clear post that.

Meanwhile, here’s a look at some of the hits and misses from budget for Mumbai’s rail commuters:

Hits:

* The decision to retain the existing fare structure.
* Scrapping of transaction fee for online transactions on IRCTC.
* Redevelopment of 5 major suburban stations – Thane, Lokmanya Tilak Terminus (LTT), Mumbai Central, Borivali and Bandra Terminus.
* Higher capital allotment to projects in Maharashtra, from Rs 1,174 crore to Rs 5,958 crore, a sizable portion of which will be utilized for Mumbai.
* Closure of unmanned level crossings and more disabled friendly stations.

Misses:

* Lack of a clear vision for Mumbai’s suburban network.
* No clear plan of action for reducing the number of casualties or overcrowding (over 3,000 die every year).
* No new projects announced for the city’s rail network.
* No mention of deadlines for projects that are already underway.
* Lack of clarity on how much money will be allocated from the Rs 1 lakh crore rail safety fund towards Mumbai.

Apart from these, Jaitley also announced a slew of other measures for the Indian Railways including laying of 3,500 km railway lines in a year, redeveloping 25 stations and turning them into hubs for multi-modal corridors, forming a new Metro Rail policy, introducing bio-toilets in all coaches by 2019 among others.

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