Indian Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu has unveiled the 2015 annual railway budget, which includes plans for a $137 billion investment over the next five years.
The first railway budget of Narendra Modi-led government has focused primarily on the improvements of rail infrastructure in the country, ensuring a safe and comfortable travel experience.
Suresh Prabhu was quoted by BBC News as saying: “Railways facilities have not improved substantially for the past few decades, which is the result of under-investment that affects capacity, leading to poor morale.
“Over the next five years, Indian Railways (IR) has to go through a transformation. We have to make Indian Railways a benchmark organisation in safety, security and infrastructure.”
With 67% more funds allotted for passenger amenities, the new budget has proposed plans for the installation of Wi-Fi facility in 400 stations and cameras on trains for the safety of women travellers.
In addition, $19.3 million will be provided for lifts and escalators in stations across the country. The proposals for the implementation of SMS alerts for train timings, user-friendly ladders for upper berths and setting up of 17,000 bio-toilets are also included in the budget.
The government will also eliminate 3,438 level crossings with a $1 billion investment.
The investment in the country’s railways will increase by approximately $16.1 million over the next year.
Prabhu said that the funds will be raised from multi-lateral lenders, infrastructure and pension funds, and also through monetising railway assets.
The minister also requested corporates, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), charitable institutions and religious bodies to come forward and invest for better passenger infrastructure from their CSR funds.
Indian Railways currently operates more than 12,000 trains and serving approximately 23 million passengers a day.