Rail budget should focus on services, amenities: survey

New Delhi, Feb 18 (IANS) The forthcoming railway budget, to be presented by Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu on February 25, must focus more on passenger services and amenities, including safety and punctuality, said a online survey by a social media platform.

“Citizens want quality and hygiene of food served in trains improved, more phone-charging points in coaches, insect and pest-free trains, more dustbins and effective maintenance of toilet accessories,” said the survey by Noida-based LocalCircles in which about 150,000 citizens across the country participated online and information was invited from verified respondents.

Among those demands were that helpline numbers must be displayed in all coaches and on platforms, emergency medical assistance should be provided on all stations and guards, travelling ticket examiner (TTE) and attendants be trained and equipped with first aid kits.

Users also want the authorities to alert passengers through customised SMS on changes, if any, in train departure, arrival and its cancellation.

“Citizens want the rail budget to ensure more drinking water taps at stations, more elevators and escalators for families, including elderly, children and physically challenged and functional toilets,” said the survey.

Clean bed rolls in air-conditioned coaches and sale of bedrolls for sleeper and general class should be available.

“Similarly, the budget should focus on providing more chairs on platforms, a separate counter for ticket cancellation, a complaint redressal department and a provision for online parcel bookings,” the survey noted.

In terms of amenities, the survey found that passengers wanted free WiFi on many stations, wheelchairs on stations for the challenged, ramps, especially in the suburban services, to make platforms disabled-friendly. To avoid overcrowding, passengers wanted to be allowed to enter platforms a hour before the train departure.

Another demands wanted online booking of retiring rooms be easier, more vigilance by Railway Protection Force and GRP personnel on every platform, ban on hawkers and vendors approaching a train window to sell goods and loud warning bells or alarms to alert passengers that the train is ready for departure.

On ticketing, citizens want 50 percent refund on Tatkal ticket cancellation six hours before departure, a quota for online Tatkal bookings and lower or middle berth for senior citizens and women with kids.

“Status of waitlisted tickets should be updated on a daily basis and advance reservation should be reduced to 60 days from 120,” the survey added.

As 63 percent of citizens surveyed observed TTEs taking bribes for giving seats or berths, they want the budget to address it so that bribes translate into revenue for the railways.

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