New Delhi: The Rail Budget this year will focus on making long-distance travel comfortable, densening the railway network in the poll-bound states and enhancing the connectivity in metro cities as well as the Northeast region.
Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will present her fourth Budget on Tuesday (February 1).
This will be the sixth joint Budget after the merger of the Rail Budget with the Union Budget in 2017.
As per information, it is expected that the Centre will increase the Rail budget by 15 to 20 per cent this year.
With the Assembly elections in five states round the corner, the Centre can announce new railway facilities for the common passengers.
Although the Railways incurred a loss of Rs 26,338 crore in the last one year, this time the Rail Budget is expected to be enhanced to around Rs 2.5 lakh crore. Last year, the Centre allocated a record budget of Rs 1,10,055 crore for the Railways.
The Centre can also propose the electrification of a record 7,000 km of railway track this time as part of its efforts to achieve complete electrification of broad-gauge railway lines by the end of 2023.
The lower and the middle class pay special attention to the Rail Budget as they share a deep connection with the railways, which is considered as the lifeline of the country. There is also a possibility of the announcement of high-speed trains in the Budget.
Plans are being made to strengthen the rail connectivity in the poll-bound states and metro cities. For this, the government can involve some private partners.
A bullet train between New Delhi and Varanasi can also be announced in the Budget. Significantly, the work of the first bullet train between Ahmedabad and Mumbai is already underway.
Similarly, announcement of a bullet train on the Delhi-Howrah route is also expected in the Budget.
Announcements regarding semi-high speed trains on the Golden Quadrilateral route, expansion of Vande Bharat Express and new dedicated freight corridors are also expected.
As per the sources, the special focus in the Rail Budget will be on the Golden Quadrilateral Routes, on which the government can announce to run semi-high speed trains having a speed of 180 to 200 kmph. These trains will be like the Vande Bharat Express.
The replacement of the old ICF coaches in all trains and installation of new LHB coaches, is another major announcement to be expected in the Budget.
About ten new light trains (aluminium ones), which are energy efficient, can be announced for long distance journeys. Similarly, a proposal to make 6,500 aluminium coaches, 1,240 locomotives and about 35,000 wagons can be proposed in the Budget.
Railways is also manufacturing several special trains replacing the traditional IPS coaches with the LHB coaches made of German technology. Also the coaches for a new 'Deccan Queen' are being manufactured at the Integral Coach Factory in Chennai.
For this new 'Deccan Queen', two specially designed coaches for guards, five AC chair car coaches, 12 non-AC chair car coaches and one pantry cum dining coach have been made. This train will have 20 coaches and each one will have its own specialty. On the same lines, other trains are also expected to be announced in the Budget.
In the Rail Budget, the Centre will also be focusing on the expansion of the rail network in the Northeast region.
In the last Budget also, the Finance Minister had announced plans to build new DFC corridors for routes like East Coast, East-West and North-South. Just before the Manipur elections, for the first time since Independence, a goods train reached Rani Gaidinliu railway station in Tamenglong district of Manipur.
Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw has recently taken stock of the Jiribam-Imphal new line project in Manipur through an aerial survey. The project includes the longest tunnel in the country, which will connect Guwahati and Imphal. Vaishnaw had said that Rs 7,000 crore has been allocated this year for various rail projects in the Northeast.