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No bias towards Bihar: Lalu

Source: PTI
February 24, 2006 18:51 IST
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Agitated over frequent disruptions in his speech, Railway Minister Lalu Prasad on Friday said BJP led Opposition was "jealous" of the schemes announced for the common people in the Railway Budget, which envisaged the largest ever Plan Outlay of Rs 23,475 crore (Rs 234.75 billion) for 2006-07.

Prasad also refuted charges that West Bengal and other states have been overlooked in terms of new facilities and that only Bihar had been given preference.

"West Bengal has been given 9 new trains besides being given extension of three trains", Prasad told the Post-Budget press conference. He said frequency of 4 trains have also been increased from West Bengal.

When asked why the proposed Eastern freight corridor had not been extended to Kolkata to link up with ports, Prasad said he had no role to play in this.

He said this issue had been discussed in detail with Left leaders including West Bengal Chief Minister Buddadeb Bhattacharya.

Prasad said the corridor is being undertaken on the basis of a RITES survey which had suggested that the corridor be focussed on mining and mineral areas. "In fact the corridor has not touched Bihar and we should be the ones to be protesting", Lalu said amidst laughter.

The Railway Budget 2006-07

In his budget speech, Prasad had said that the Eastern Corridor Project would also be extended up to ports in West Bengal "as per traffic needs".

On the issue of additional trains, Prasad said while Uttar Pradesh is proposed to be given 20 additional trains, 10 of the existing trains will be extended and frequencies of 4 will be increased during 2006-07.

In the case of Maharashtra it would be 15 new trains, 11 extended trains and increase in frequencies of 4 trains.  For Tamil Nadu, it would be 10 new trains, 7 extension of trains and increase in frequency of 2 trains.

For Andhra Pradesh there would be 13 new trains, extension would be given to 11 trains and frequencies of 1 train would be increased. "Even if there is a mention in the budget speech of a train originating or going to Bihar there is commotion", he said.

He said to suit office goers, efforts are being made to reduce the travel time of New Delhi-Howrah Rajdhani Express in two phases, by one hour so that it departs after office hours and reaches Howrah before office time.

Similar efforts are being made to reduce the travel time of all Rajdhani Expressess including New Delhi-Patna Rajdhani.

In reply to a query he said orders to the tune of Rs 35-40 crore (Rs 350 to 400 million) would be placed for purchase of Khadi for the Railways during 2006-07 as against Rs 25 crore (Rs 250 million) spent on it this fiscal.

Prasad said spare coaches are proposed to be made available by increasing train speeds and better utilisation of rake links for augmenting the number of coaches in popular passenger trains.

The number of coaches in about 190 popular passenger trains is being increased to 23-24 from the present 19-21, he said adding the platforms would also have to undergo renovation.

With the augmentation of these trains by about 500 coaches, waitlisted passengers can get confirmed reservation thereby enabling Railways to earn Rs 200 crore (Rs 2 billion) additionally every year, he said.

The Railways will also work out means to manufacture lighter and stronger train coaches as bogies in Indian Railways are heavier than in some countries.

He said the fully air-conditioned "Garib Rath" (poor man's chariot), to be run on a pilot project basis will initially be introduced on the New Delhi-Patna, New Delhi-Chennai and New Delhi-Mumbai routes. Besides the train will also connect Amritsar, he said.

The Railways will also be focusing on manufacture of air-conditioned double decker trains to meet the passenger demand.
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