Today Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu is presenting the NDA government’s first full Railway Budget. The Minister mentioned that the Railways Ministry received over 20,000 suggestions through social media and some of them have been incorporated into the budget.

 

The Indian Railways plan to introduce:

Unreserved tickets on smartphones: Indian Railways will enable booking of unreserved tickets on smartphones using debit cards.  

Consumer complaint facility: Pan-India consumer helpline to be introduced from March 1, 2015. Passengers can call 138 for any queries. For security complaints, Passengers can call 182 (toll-free number).

E-catering service: E-catering service to be introduced on 108 trains, and meals can be booked online through the IRCTC portal. The Minister mentioned that for this Indian Railways is partnering with a number of well-known food delivery services, though he didn’t reveal any specific names.

SMS alert service: Passengers will receive SMS alerts for train timimgs, including expected arrival times, delays, etc.

 

Multi-lingual e-ticketing portal: The Minister mentioned that a multi-lingual e-ticketing portal will be launched, however no further details were provided.

Integrated customer portal: Indian Railways will launch an integrated customer-focused portal that will bring all Railway consumer services on a single platform.

On-board entertainment: On-board entertainment will be introduced on select Shatabdi trains on license-fee basis, and depending on passenger response it will be extended to other Shatabdi trains. We’re assuming this means video and music streaming services will be provided, however details are still sketchy.

Wi-Fi to be extended to Category B stations: The Minister mentioned that Wi-Fi hotspots will be introduced to 400 railway stations across the country. Besides A and A2 category stations, these hotspots will also be introduced category B stations. We’ve heard such announcements for several years now, but the on-ground truth is that so far Wi-Fi facility has only been introduced at the Delhi and Bangalore stations.

Pick-up and drop booking facility: Passengers will be allowed to book pick-ups and drops to and from railways stations on the IRCTC portal. However, no specific date was mentioned by the Minister. Passengers will also apparently be able to book wheelchairs online.

Surveillance cameras and women’s safety: Surveillance cameras on select mainline and ladies compartments will be installed. Railways plan to augment women passenger security via Nirbhaya Fund.  

Ticket booking window increased: Railways to raise reserved ticket booking window to 120 days vs 60 days now. It should be interesting how online ticketing agencies can use this window.

Digital integration of vendors: The railways minister also announcd plans to digitally integrate vendors to improve efficiency. Considering the number of vendors the IRCTC has, this would help a lot of businesses.

Mobile charging points: Mobile phone charging facilities to be Provided in General Class coaches. Hope they can maintain the points properly considering the number of people who travel in this class.

Paperless ticketing for passengers and ticket examiners: Proposal to move towards paperless ticketing and charting- hand-held terminals to be provided for travelling ticket examiners for passenger verification and downloading charts. Seamless navigation after an integrated single-interface portal is put in place. The government is exploring the possibility of using SMSes as valid proof of travel for PRS tickets.

Watch the live stream of the budget speech here.