The Polit Bureau of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has issued the following statement:
The railway budget 2007-08 presented in parliament today shows a better health of the railways in comparison to the previous year. It is welcome that no further burden has been put on the people and certain innovative measures have been taken like replacement of wooden seats with cushion ones in ordinary class compartments.
Against 55 new trains and extension of routes of 37 trains last year, this year only 32 new trains have been introduced and extension of routes of 23 trains have been proposed. With the better financial health of the railways, it was expected that there will be more new trains and further extensions as per the increasing requirements from different areas in the country. Unfortunately, many important regions have been neglected in the introduction of these new trains. The need for adequate allocation leading to consolidation of the network which should result in visible improvement of punctuality and safety has also not been addressed.
It is unfortunate that despite improved freight traffic and the projection of further improvement during the 11th plan, the same has not been reflected in the acquisition of rolling stock specially wagons, locomotives and coaches. It is reiterated that the optimal utilization of the capacity of wagon-making and coach-making facilities in the country should be prioritized while going for new units. A disturbing aspect of the budget are proposals concerning public-private partnership in the railways. Already passenger reservation systems, parcels, catering services, retiring rooms, yatri niwas etc are being outsourced. A disquieting feature is that in the safety areas also privatisation is being resorted to through outsourcing. The container services which was earlier being run by the railways after being converted into a corporation (CONCOR) is also being pushed to public-private partnership system. The Railway Minister’s statement of PPP in special freight corridor also hints at change in the financing pattern which will not be in the long term interests of the railways as there is every possibility of cherry-picking in the most remunerative part of the railway revenue i.e. freight traffic.
The Polit Bureau of the CPI(M) calls upon the railway minister to reverse such trends. More emphasis must be laid on improving the safety of the railways.