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Here's what to expect from Rail Budget

Running trains at 200 kmph on the Delhi-Howrah and Delhi-Mumbai routes, allocation of Rs 20,000 crore for safety upgrade and customised trains for agri products are likely to be in focus as Finance Minister Arun Jaitley presents the first Rail Budget subsumed in the General Budget on Wednesday.

Besides, the budget will also give thrust on infrastructure development including laying new lines, electrification, modernisation and station redevelopment with private participation. Making all stations disabled-friendly ones and connectivity for religious places are likely to find mention in the Budget 2017-18.

Going ahead with the government’s reform agenda, Jaitley will discard the 92-year-long tradition of presentation of a separate Rail Budget and instead make it part of the General Budget earmarking a few paragraphs on the public transporter’s finance, projects and the road map for the next fiscal. An ambitious project of increasing train speed up to 200 km per hour on major trunk routes will be announced which will involve fencing off the Delhi-Howrah and Delhi-Mumbai routes at an estimated cost of Rs 21,000 crore.

The project is likely to be funded through extra budgetary resources such as banks, LIC or World Bank, according to sources. Reeling under a series of derailments, the Budget is likely to announce creation of a separate safety fund of about Rs 1 lakh crore over the next five years out of which Rs 20,000 crore will be earmarked for 2017-18, sources added. Promoting cashless transaction, Railways will opt for installing about 1000 POS at several stations The plan outlay is likely to go up from Rs 1.21 lakh crore to about Rs 1.36 lakh crore in the next fiscal.

Railways, which is losing both passenger and freight volumes, witnessed its traffic receipts in April-December 2016 down to Rs 1.19 lakh as against Rs 1.34 lakh crore target, a negative growth of more than 11 per cent. Railways is likely to miss the operating ratio target of 92 per cent and is likely to settle at about 94-95 per cent. The Budget will also give a fillip to non-fare revenue exercise and monetising assets like vacant land, estimated to be about 48,000 hectares including redevelopment of stations with private participation.