Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee began presenting her ministry's budget for the current fiscal shortly after noon Friday with the promise of addressing the concerns of average passengers.
"People all over the country have high expectations from the railway budget," Banerjee told the Lok Sabha, the lower house of parliament, switching between English and Hindi.
She started with a question if Indian Railways, which runs the world's second largest railroad network under single management, should function purely on the basis of economic viability or address the social commitment.
"Time has come when our economic and social philosophers have to change their old mindset of economic viability and replace it with social viability and upliftment," she said.
Banerjee said her focus would be on better passenger amenities, good food at affordable prices, clean toilets at stations and trains.
"Fifty stations will be developed into world class facilities," she said naming those at Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Varanasi Guwahati, Chennai, Mangalore, Porbundar and Kochi, among others.
This is her first rail budget for the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government and third in her political career.
Highlights of railway budget for 2009-10
Following are the highlights of the rail budget for the current fiscal presented by Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee in the Lok Sabha Friday:
- 50 world class stations to be developed on public private partnership model
- 309 out of 375 stations will be developed with modern facilities
- 50 stations at tourist, religious places to have integrated facilities
- Infotainment facilities on Rajdhani Express for long distance passengers
- Unreserved ticketing systems to be expanded from 5,000 to 8,000 terminals
- Passengers can now buy tickets at 5,000 post offices
- Air-conditioned double-decker trains for inter-city travel
- SMS updates for wait-listed passengers
- 200 automatic vending machines at key stations for selling tickets