No fare hike, 54 new trains announced in Rail Budget

Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee spared passengers of a fare hike, while lowering freight rates on some essential items and announcing the launch of 52 new trains in Rail Budget for 2010-11.

"We have saved Rs 2,000 crore ($40 million) because of the hard work of our employees and austerity measures. There will be no increase in passenger fares," Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee told the Lok Sabha, the lower house of parliament.

"Our objective is inclusive growth," she said in her marathon 110-minute speech, adding that her main consideration was social responsibility of Indian Railways rather than mere commercial viability of various projects.

Accordingly, she also announced a cut in freight tariff for kerosene and grain, upgrade of 94 stations, 522 diagnostic centres, target of 1,000 km new lines, 10 auto ancillary hubs, several high-speed passenger rail corridors, six new drinking water plants and housing for all railway staff in 10 years.

"We have set our goals in the Vision 2020 document and we will achieve it," the Minister said, referring to the document unveiled in December that has targeted making over 30,000 km of routes into double or multiple lines against 18,000 km today.

"It is a fact that administrative and procedural delays discourage potential investors. We will need to overcome this. I am setting up a special task force for this," said the Minister, dressed in a white and green sari and her trademark rubber slippers.

"Special structure will be created for the new business model," she said, emphasising: "But we will not privatise railways. Indian Railways will remain with the government."

At the same time, she also asked the private sector to refrain from what she called the "typical negative approach", while dealing with the Indian Railways. "I am sorry to say this -- this mindset has to change."