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More trains, no fare hike on wish list

If railway minister Pawan Kumar Bansal is busy readying his maiden budget for Parliament, passenger associations and business organisations are listing their expectations this fiscal.

From new trains and coach factories to platform hygiene and passenger safety, the wish list is as exhaustive as the budget exercise.

“We are expecting new trains from Ranchi to places like Hardwar and Mumbai and to Ahmedabad via Porbandar,” said Ashok Nagpal, the vice-president of Chotanagpur Passenger Association and member of Zonal Railway Users’ Consultative Committee (ZRUCC).

Nagpal said Bansal had promised to look into a letter by erstwhile chief minister Arjun Munda, who had listed the state’s requests to the Union minister a week before stepping down from his post on January 8.

Besides new trains from Ranchi, Tatanagar and Dhanbad, Munda’s letter had urged the railway ministry to set up coach factories in Hazaribagh, Seraikela and Dumka to boost economy and development of these areas.

The long wish list from the capital includes new trains like a Ranchi-Jaipur weekly via Gaya-Kanpur, a Ranchi-Hatia-Chennai weekly via Sambalpur-Vijayanagaram, a Ranchi-Ahmedabad weekly via Rourkela-Nagpur, a Ranchi-Secunderabad weekly via Bilaspur-Raipur, a Ranchi-Indore weekly via Barkakana and a Ranchi-Sambalpur-Vijayanagaram. From Tatanagar, passengers want new trains to Udaypur, Munger and Bhagalpur as well as a Janshatabdi Express to Patna.

“We also want the ministry to begin the of Namkum-Kandra railway project and turn it into a speed corridor so that travel between Ranchi and Jamshedpur takes less than an hour,” said Arun Tiwari, executive member of the Chotanagpur Passenger Association.

Tiwari said the railways, which had recently increased food rates at stations and on board trains, needed to pay more attention to hygiene. He maintained that Bansal should not concentrate only on hiking fares and instead focus on increasing railway links.

“Vision 2020 says that the railways’ contribution to GDP should increase to three per cent, which at present is half of that. So, income has to be literally doubled in the next seven years and the railways will try to do so only through fare hike. But, increasing routes and services is also a viable option,” Tiwari added.

Prem Kataruka, the secretary of Jharkhand Passenger Association, agreed. “The railway minister has hiked fare recently. Such frequent decisions are only making the poor poorer,” said, adding that the focus should shift to passenger safety.

“Many passenger trains are used for smuggling coal. This should stop as should incidents of robbery and murder,” said Aswini Pandey of Dainik Yatri Sangh, Dhanbad. He demanded public toilets at the station.