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Industry Reacts to Rail Budget 2016-17
February 25, 2016
Industry Reacts to Rail Budget 2016-17

25 February 2016

Jay Bhatia, Honorary Treasurer & Chairman Tourism Council, TAAI (Travel Agents Association of India)

It is a very good initiative by the Rail Minister to propose development of tourist circuits by partnering with the state governments. This was the only initiative lacking for international tourists as they were unable to explore destinations beyond the airport purview. By this not only the domestic, but the international traveller shall gain experience and get an opportunity to visit the interior parts and tourist circuits, which are unexplored. This revenue-sharing model of Indian Railways along with state governments shall interest everyone. Also, flights to the North East are expensive, and by connecting the region to the other states by rail, the domestic traveller of the middle-class cadre shall get an opportunity to travel. Facilities for children, women and senior citizens are a welcome move. The optional travel insurance is a new initiative and innovative as compared to other parts of the world. It is encouraging on the part of the Railway Ministry to include train journeys connecting the wildlife circuits in Central India, creating awareness about the Tiger. The announcement of installing CCTV across stations shall also create a security in the minds of the traveller in terms of curtailing terrorism, thefts and robberies. It is very encouraging to see the aggressive approach of the government to compress project completion time to six to eight months from two years in various zones. Overall, the Budget looks positive if put into good effect in a time-bound manner.

Abhijit Arun Khadilkar, National General Secretary, ETAA (Enterprising Travel Agents Association)

Improving connectivity across the country, especially the North East of India and Tiger circuits, and the vision for 2020 were some of the highlights of the Budget. Also, cancellation through 139 helpline is a respite. Tourism will grow multi-fold with such initiatives. This can be touted as a travel agent-friendly budget.

Sharat Dhall, President, Yatra.com

The Railway Budget is definitely positive and concentrates on tackling issues of the common man. Complete transparency, modernization, enhanced infrastructure, safety, improved hygiene and overall resonance with the Prime Minister’s ‘Make in India’ campaign makes this a positive and consumer friendly budget. It is also good to witness a slew of initiatives that will use modern technology such as Wi-Fi at stations, automated ticket machines, bio toilets and bar coded tickets and all this with no hike in passenger fares. The rail Budget is also looking to enhance connectivity to the North Eastern states and the beautification of stations at pilgrimage centres which will help promoting tourism to these places. The announcement of the National Railways plan along with joint ventures with state governments underlines the continued focus of building better infrastructure for the railway sector.

Shwetank Singh, VP – Development & Asset Management, Interglobe Hotels

We are happy with the Railway Budget, and believe that it presents many progressive steps to boost not just the sector. but ancillary industries as well. We were looking keenly at last mile connectivity, timeliness of trains as well as ease of transit. We welcome the initiative by Railway Minister regarding connectivity to some high-potential regions such as North East, Andhra Pradesh and Kolkata. We also expect the religious tourism to exhibit a healthy growth in the next few years due to betterment of stations in cities such as Nasik, Haridwar, Varanasi, etc. Better services for the common man and businesses such cashless transactions, online bidding for ticket procurement, e-ticketing through international debit and credit cards, on-demand reservations for wait-listers, sale of tickets through hand-held devices, etc. will give a huge growth impetus to the hospitality sector in India.

Subhash Goyal, President, IATO (Indian Association of Tour Operators)

Continuing with “Swatch Bharat” drive, the announcement of installation of bio-toilets and vacuum toilets in as many trains will definitely ensure better cleanliness. We welcome the idea of high-speed bullet train with Japanese collaboration on Mumbai–Ahmedabad route. We need such trains for all major tourist routes. Even improving catering services with e-catering system is very positive step. Food availability in trains remained a negative point for our rail services & this will resolve the problem. Local cuisines of choice will be made available to passengers, overnight double-decker trains for business travellers routes are innovative measures and will boost rail travel. New policy like milk, medicines, insurance companies for optional insurance to passengers, extending e-catering to all stations, priority passengers amenities and beautification of stations bring comfort & confidence in rail travel and we welcome these initiatives. All these upgradations are poised to change the Railways image.

Jyoti Kapur, President, ADTOI

The Railway Budget 2016-17 looks very positive and promising for the integrated development of domestic tourism and will go a long way in driving the country’s economy to greater heights.

The government hasn’t hiked fares for rail passenger and enhanced better connectivity, convenience and passenger comfort which is a welcoming step. Promotion of better rail connectivity to tourist destinations of North East and Jammu & Kashmir will also boost inter-state tourism. Moreover, the overall infrastructure development will not only push domestic tourism, but inbound as well.

Sarab Jit Singh, Vice Chairman, FAITH

We welcome the introduction of 30,000 bio-toilets in trains by the next financial year, introduction of broad gauge lines in Mizoram and Manipur and progressing rail projects in Jammu & Kashmir. We look forward to state governments being called for operating tourist circuit trains and exploring the possibility of a revenue sharing model.

Besides, FAITH looks forward to the up-gradation of facilities both at the railway platform and inside the train. Moreover, trains must connect all important Buddhist Tourism sites such as Bodh Gaya and Sarnath, with a complete AC Tier-II train, where travellers can hop on and hop off at sites.

Manmeet Ahluwalia, Marketing Head, Expedia India

The government realises the potential of tourism and is looking at capitalising the same to boost domestic travel, with an initial focus on wildlife and pilgrimage tourism. Initiating circuit trains, adding passenger amenities and beautification of stations are steps in the right direction to increase traffic to these sectors. The government is learning from some of the leading tourist destinations across Asia and the globe, which have developed wildlife tourism extensively with specialised zoos. As Indian consumers take to newer experiences, the government can look at developing formats like day and night safaris, river safaris, jungle quests to provide an enthralling experience to domestic as well as inbound travellers. Creating specific Aastha circuit trains will make it easier for them to cover more destinations in one trip. Developing railway networks deeper into the North Eastern region will further enhance domestic traffic, leading to better development and employment opportunities in the region.

Prakash Javadekar, Minister of State (Independent Charge) of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India

The Railway Budget 2016-2017 is a passenger-centric, futuristic and a visionary budget, which reflects Prime Minister’s vision of Make in India very strongly. It aims to upgrade the facilities and increase security. For the first time, Antyoday Express, a completely unreserved train and Deendayal coaches on all expresses and mail trains have been introduced for the unreserved class of passengers.

Mumbai Elevated Railways is a new paradigm shift in the sub-urban trains. People had been demanding these elevated corridors for decades and the demand has been fulfilled in this budget.

Madhavan Menon, MD, Thomas Cook India

The pro-tourism focus of the Railway Budget via a strategic three-pronged combination of connectivity, safety & modernisation-technology has brought the spotlight back to destination India, and augurs well from both an inbound & domestic perspective. Tourism clearly has found focus in the Rail budget and we are delighted with its strategic initiatives: Asha circuit trains to connect important pilgrim centres in the country; introduction of Tejas, a super-fast train with world class facilities; e-catering services to be increased from the current 40 stations to over 400; expansion of the East-West corridor to open more avenues for inbound travel putting NE destinations on the tourist radar as key emerging opportunities. Reservation of 33% sub-quota is highly laudable an initiative towards women empowerment. The government has taken note of serious safety concerns of the women segment in the Rail budget. We applaud the focussed measures for women security: cleanliness and safety of women passengers with an all India 24X7 helpline, CCTV surveillance at railway stations, select mainline coaches and ladies compartments of suburban coaches-a move that is sorely needed to bring reassurance to both domestic and inbound women travellers.

We are delighted with the impactful, new and enterprising options such as announcement of Humsafar, Tejas and Uday Express trains with advance amenities along with bankable railway projects now being assured of funding. These in turn will quicken the process of completion thereby improving the quality of travel & tourism.

Manish Rathi, CEO & Co-founder, RailYatri.in

Like in the previous year, there are so many positive initiatives in the Railway Budget which are consumer-centric. The increasing focus on passenger amenities is appreciable. However, consumer looks at what is not being told, but what is actually being delivered. We can also see the continuing focus on forging private partnerships in improving the service delivery across the railway system, which again is an extension of the last budget, and confirms continuation in outlook. The proposal to earmark Budget outlay for start ups is a welcome step. Although INR 50 crore is not a big amount, it will motivate people.