Railway minister hints at fare hike

November 11th, 2011 - 9:28 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Nov 11 (IANS) Hinting at a possible revision of passenger fares, Railways Minister Dinesh Trivedi Friday said his ministry is considering hiking the “fuel component” in the ticket cost, leaving the passenger fare part untouched for now.

“We can not take the burden of the fuel component any more. I am concerned about the financial condition of railways,” Trivedi told reporters.

Fuel component in a rail ticket is around 30 percent and is currently not indicated on the ticket.

The railway plans to mention the fuel component on the ticket. This will inform the passenger in case the cost of the ticket goes up in future and will also provide some relief to the railways reeling under a financial crunch.

Keeping in mind the fact that around 91 percent of the passengers belong to the general class, the railways will not touch the passenger fare component of the ticket for now, said the rail minister.

“We need a public debate before we take a decision on revision of the fare component in a ticket,” said Trivedi.

There has been a recent increase in the railways’ fuel bill, including diesel and electricity cost, which is around 18-20 percent of its annual expenditure.

An inflated fuel bill would mean the planned railway expenditure of Rs.73,000 crore for 2011-12 would go up to Rs.78,000 crore by the end of the financial year, said sources.

Sources further said the “investible surplus” of Rs.13,000 crore this year is expected to drop to Rs.4,000 crore after the government revised its economic growth target from 8 percent to 7.5 percent.

Indian Railways, the largest rail network in the world under single management that runs 10,500 trains and ferries 2.2 crore passengers every day, last hiked passenger fares in 2002-03.

As part of fare rationalisation in 2002-03, minimum fare for second class mail and express trains went up by Re.1 from Rs.15 to Rs.16. For long distance trains up to 341 km, the hike ranged from Rs.1 to Rs.6.

Trivedi said demand for revision of passenger fares has come not only from the Planning Commission and the parliamentary consultative committee on railways, but from railway unions as well.

Sources said the need to revise fares has arisen owing to the financial constraints of the Indian Railways and a fear among the unions that the staff may not get their salaries.

But upgrading passenger services too is a concern within the railways.

“I am ashamed to talk about rats and cockroaches in the AC coaches but can’t brush it under the carpet,” said Trivedi.

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