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Rivals unite in chorus against budget

Patna, Feb. 12: Even as the state got two premium trains connecting Patna with Bangalore and Mumbai in the interim rail budget, chief minister Nitish Kumar joined leaders cutting across political lines to attack the budget for “grave neglect” to Bihar.

“The railway ministry has gravely neglected Bihar. It has paid no attention to the long-pending projects in the state. It has no mention of the Patna-Digha rail route, which we had offered to take over for conversion into road route on payment. The budget is hopeless beyond redemption,” Nitish said.

His arch rivals — Lalu Prasad and Sushil Kumar Modi — too attacked the budget. “The two premium trains are like jhunjhuna (plaything) that will hardly address the need of the common passengers. The budget has kept in abeyance all the projects that I had got approved as the railway minister for the state,” the RJD chief said.

The former deputy CM (Modi) too said that the UPA-II had turned a blind eye to Bihar at the time of its “farewell”.

“The railway ministry has kept pending the projects worth Rs 45,000 crore allotted to the state during its 10 years of its rule. These projects will be completed when the BJP-led government will take over after the Lok Sabha polls,” Modi added.

Apart from the two premium trains connecting Patna to Mumbai and Bangalore, the rail budget has also introduced another premier train from Kamakhya to Delhi that will pass through Chhapra in north Bihar.

Bihar would also get benefit from the gauge conversion project across the country.

At least 22km would be converted between Darum Madhepura and Murliganj.

Railway minister Mallikarjun Kharge said during his budget speech that during 2013-14, the railways had completed 1,532km of new line, doubling and gauge conversion against a revised target of 1,525 km.

Surveys for 19 new lines, including Chakia-Kesariya in East Champaran, will be taken up during 2014-15.

Premium trains would be a relief for passengers travelling on these two routes, especially for students in Bangalore. At present, there is only one daily and one weekly trains for Bangalore and two daily and weekly expresses for Mumbai.

The new trains, which would be introduced during the 2014-15 fiscal year, would provide an additional option to the passengers to make their travel plan. But the premium trains are not like normal express trains, which can be booked two months in advance.

For these, the advance reservation period is shorter — a maximum of 15 days — and the fare is equal to or higher than the Rajdhani Express’s tatkal fare.

East Central Railway (ECR) general manager Madhuresh Kumar said: “Premium train fare is not like normal express trains. Its fare increases depending on the intensity of demand. No doubt, travelling on premium trains would be a bit luxurious but passengers will have to pay for it. It will cater to the need of those passengers who want to avoid the last-minute rush.”

Altogether 17 premium, 38 express, 10 passenger, four MEMU and four DEMU trains have been introduced in the interim budget.

Vijay Kumar, a resident of East Boring Canal Road and government employee, expressed his happiness over the new train. His son Kumar Sujay is studying in Vellore Institute of Technology in Tamil Nadu. “My son boards Sanghmitra Express, which goes to Bangalore and many times I face problem while booking tickets for him at the last minute. However, after the introduction of this new train, I hope it will bring some relief to parents like me. The only concern that the ticket price might be quite high,” said Vijay.

The Mumbai-bound premium train will run twice a week and the Patna-Bangalore train will run once a week.

Bihar Daily Passengers’ Association termed it “satisfactory budget” but expressed its disappointment over neglecting the common passengers.

Its secretary Shuaib Quraishi said: “It is good that Bihar has been given two premium trains. They will help the students studying in Bangalore but the budget does not have anything for the common passengers. We had submitted several demands to the railways but none of them has been taken into consideration except one more train for Bangalore. However it is only for the rich and VIPs.”

On the other hand, Bihar Chamber of Commerce and Industries expressed its disappointment and said that Bihar “has been neglected” in the interim rail budget.

Its president P.K. Agarwal said: “I was hoping for solid steps by the railways for providing new projects to Bihar and also improve passenger facilities but nothing has been done which is a subject of great anxiety.”

He added: “No importance has been given to complete the ongoing railway projects like the bridge between Patna and Munger on the Ganga, greenfield electric locomotive factory in Madhepura, wagon factory at Garhara, extension of loco-shed re-construction of wagon factory at Jamalpur, new DEMU shed at Sonepur and rail coach factory at Dalmianagar.”


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