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Rail Budget’s consumer-centric approach gets wide appreciation

Friday, February 26, 2016, 11:00 Hrs  [IST]
HBI Staff |New Delhi

For the second year in succession, the Union Railway Minister, Suresh Prabhu tried to present a budget which although is not very populist, but one that has a vision in terms of improving infrastructure and passenger amenities as well as strengthening the safety and security of passengers. Conceding that Indian Railway is facing adverse headwinds because of the tepid growth in economy’s core sectors due to global slowdown as well as the looming pay commission pay outs, Prabhu said that Indian Railway will overcome these challenges by reorganising, restructuring and rejuvenating the organization.

“We, in the Railways, must provide to the citizens of this country a rail system that they can be proud of – a system free from capacity constraints, a system that is efficient and predictable, a system that is sparkling and pristine, where the people of my country feel at ease,” the Minister said.

The Minister said that the vision is to make seats available on demand by 2020 and as well as inject hi-end technology to improve safety and improve punctuality of trains. As part of making the Railway stations and network clean and hygiene, the Railway is working to ensure “zero discharge of human waste” in the next four years, the Minister said. From introducing new smart coaches to introducing information and entertainment onboard trains, to extending the wi-fi facilities to more than 400 stations, as well as expanding the e-catering services, there has been numerous proposals to improve passenger interface and amenities in the railway system in the budget.

These proposals have been welcomed by the travel and tourism industry in general.

Commenting on the budget, Sharat Dhall, President, said, “The railway budget is definitely positive and concentrates on tackling issues of the common man. Complete transparency, modernization, enhanced infrastructure, safety, improved hygiene and overall resonance with the Prime Minister’s ‘Make in India’ campaign makes this a positive and consumer friendly budget. It is also good to witness a slew of initiatives that will use modern technology such as Wi-Fi at stations, automated ticket machines, bio toilets and bar coded tickets and all this with no hike in passenger fares. The rail budget is also looking to enhance connectivity to the North Eastern states and the beautification of stations at pilgrimage centres which will help promoting tourism to these places.

Expressing similar sentiments, Manish Rathi, CEO & Co-founder, said, “Like in the previous budget, there are so many positive initiatives in the Railway Budget which are consumer-centric. The increasing focus on passenger amenities is appreciable. However, consumer looks at what is not being told, but what is actually being delivered. We can also see the continuing focus on forging private partnerships in improving the service delivery across the railway system, which again is an extension of the last budget, and confirms continuation in outlook. The proposal to earmark budget outlay for start ups is a welcome step. Although Rs 50 cr is not a big amount, it will motivate people.”

Shwetank Singh—VP Development and Asset Management InterGlobe Hotels also commended the approach of the budget to make consumer access to the services easy and seamless. “We are happy with the railway budget presented by the Government today and believe that it presents many progressive steps to boost not just the sector but ancillary industries as well. From a hospitality sector point of view, we were looking keenly at last mile connectivity, timeliness of trains as well as ease of transit. We also expect the religious tourism to exhibit a healthy growth in the next few years due to betterment of stations in cities such as Nasik, Haridwar, Varanasi, etc. Better services for common man and businesses such cashless transactions, online bidding for ticket procurement, E-ticketing through International debit and credit cards, on-demand reservations for wait-listers, sale of tickets through hand-held devices etc. will give a huge growth impetus to the hospitality sector in India.”

 “The government realises the potential of tourism and is looking at capitalizing the same to boost domestic travel, with an initial focus on wildlife and pilgrimage tourism. Initiating circuit trains, adding passenger amenities and beautification of stations are steps in the right direction to increase traffic to these sectors. In fact, we have seen a higher percentage of financially independent youngsters heading for pilgrimage tourism to appreciate natural beauty and spiritual experiences. Creating specific Aastha circuit trains will make it easier for them to cover more destinations in one trip. We have already seen a 35% y-o-y growth in this segment over the last year,” said Manmeet Ahluwalia, Marketing Head, Expedia India.

Sankalp Agarwal CEO, co-founder TravelTriangle lauded the budget’s direction to inject modern technology into various aspects of railways’ service delivery. “This year's rail budget stresses upon something that is TravelTriangle's core - technology. Railway minister has presented a budget which integrates technology like never before in various aspects right from tatkal booking, to bar coded tickets, SMS service for cleaner coaches to drones monitoring progress of projects and GPS display. Many tourists, want to travel by train but due to cleanliness and reservation issues resort to flights. The budget is certainly a step in right direction. Not increasing the ticket prices and providing wifi at railway stations will certainly bid well for the young travelers. Digital GPS display inside the coaches will certainly be a hit.”

“Tourism clearly has found focus in the Rail budget and we are delighted with its strategic initiatives: Astha circuit trains to connect important pilgrim centres in the country; introduction of Tejas, a super-fast train with world class facilities; e-catering services to be increased from the current 40 stations to over 400; expansion of the East-West corridor to open more avenues for inbound travel putting NE destinations on the tourist radar as key emerging opportunities. Reservation of 33% sub quota is highly laudable an initiative towards women empowerment. The Government has taken note of serious safety concerns of the women segment in the Rail budget. We applaud the focussed measures for women security: cleanliness and safety of women passengers with an all India 24X7 helpline, CCTV surveillance at railway stations, select mainline coaches and ladies compartments of suburban coaches - a move that is sorely needed to bring reassurance to both domestic and inbound women travellers,” said Madhavan Menon, Managing Director, Thomas Cook India.


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