India pledges more comfort on creaking rail network
NEW DELHI (AFP) - India on Tuesday pledged better catering, comfort and cleanliness as part a US$11.7 billion (S$14.5 billion) budget for Asia's oldest rail network along with steps to help stop trains mowing down people and elephants.
Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal hiked freight rates by five percent in his budget for the sprawling state-run network, India's main form of long-distance transport despite competition from airlines and roads.
For the first time, the cost of shipping goods will be linked to fuel prices, Mr Bansal added, in a move highlighting the Congress-led government's resolve to rein-in deficit-ballooning subsidies for publicly owned companies.
He held fares steady after hiking them last month for the millions of train passengers who travel daily but said they would have to rise in future and insisted the troubled service must be made "financially sustainable".