Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee began presenting the rail budget for 2011-12 in the Lok Sabha Friday with the promise of not only moving ahead faster to build a strong railroad infrastructure but also to address the needs of the average person.

“We have taken a two-pronged approach. On the one hand, building sustainable, efficient, rapidly-growing railways. On the other, having an acute sense of social responsibility towards the common people,” Baneerjee told the Lok Sabha.

“In this budget we have attempted to combine a strong economic focus with an equivalent emphasis on social inclusion with a human face,” she said in her opening remarks of what was her fifth such exercise as railways minister.

The latest rail budget also comes against the backdrop of assembly elections due soon in the home state of the minister, whose Trinamool Congress has set its eyes on forming the next government.

In the previous two rail budgets for the United Progressive Alliance government, she had announced 122 new trains in 2009-10 and another 54 a year later, without altering the freight or passenger tariff rates.

Indian Railways, the world’s second largest under a single management, has a network of 64,099 route km to ferry as many as 18.9 million passengers on 7,000 trains daily from 6,906 stations. It also runs 4,000 freight trains to carry 850 million tonnes of cargo.

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