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The 2017-18 Union Budget has been a game-changing one in many ways. From introducing visionary measures to promote Digital India to discarding a separate Railway Budget, the government has proposed a balanced Budget.
Recent derailments had brought the vulnerability of the national carrier into the limelight. For the railways, the fund allotment of Rs one lakh crore towards safety, is a welcome move. Better safety can be ensured with improved tracks, better rolling stock, better signalling, lesser level-crossings, fencing where required and world-class maintenance of tracks. This would lead to safer and faster movement, would fuel efficiency and productivity.
The government is paving the way for semi-high speed trains across the network. Progressive moves like these will ensure that India gets to the global standard in terms of competence, efficiency and financial management in development.
The railways has been struggling with funding and financial prudence for a long time. Strategic measures with innovative financing models to improve rail speeds, upgrade rail infrastructure with increasing track capacity, improve passenger comfort and innovations in technology will help accelerate the modernisation of the sector.
All commuters have three basic demands when it comes to travelling by trains: Cleanliness, safety and timely arrival. Slow speeds make train travelling unattractive; many would rather choose roads or buy affordable tickets for economy class air travel. The Budget has laid out big investments in infrastructure by claiming to invest up to Rs 3,96,135 crore during the next financial year.
The government in this Budget has acknowledged the need to give impetus to speed up the movement of goods, making freight less expensive and positioning the railways as an attractive option over steady competition from road transport.
The focus of the Indian railways is now slowly turning towards raising passengers’ comfort level as well. Introduction of measures such as’Raksha Coach’, ‘Coach Mitra’ and environment-friendly disposal of solid waste will help restore the much lacking efficiency and public confidence in the railways.
The Budget has also clearly been designed in order to guide the country towards sustainable development by boosting infrastructure as well as generating employment opportunities.
Better transport means better mobility, more manufacturing and generation of employment. In the times of international uncertainties, this Budget is a booster for the Indian economy .We will see the positive impact of this Budget very soon.
The writer is director, India and Asia Pacific, at Talgo