Railways not in favour of across-the-board fare hike: Prabhu

Photo: PIB
Photo: PIB

Railway minister Suresh Prabhu on 15 February said no fee hike would be implemented in this year’s Railway Budget, to be presented in the Lok Sabha on 25 February.

The government’s emphasis lay more on strengthening railnetwork rather than on announcing new projects, he added.

A semi-high-speed train called Gatimaan, monetisation of railway property are some of the budgetary proposals, he added.

A 10% hike in fares will rake in Rs 4,500 crore of extra revenue. Even the PMO was not in favour of a fare hike. The railways had tweaked certain concessions, changed refund and Tatkal rules outside the Budget.

While cancellation charges were doubled, seats under Tatkal were hiked to 30% from 10% in all trains. The Tatkal changes alone will mean an across-the-board hike of 5%, said a railway official.

Since November, fares for upper class travel have hiked by 4% due to the service tax levy and Swachh Bharat cess, but proceeds from these won’t add to the revenue.

Focus will be to rationalise 269 categories of concessions, a new catering policy with stress on e-catering under the IRCTC subsidiary, monetising railway property, branding of trains and attracting investments in building private freight terminals and sidings.

In rationalisation of perks, for example, the railways has changed the policy towards kids. Beginning April 21, full rate will be charged for children will be given a berth only on payment of full fare, though they can still travel by paying half. Advance bookings as per the changed policy have started.

Sources familiar this process said only those projects and lines are likely to be announced which will be constructed under JV companies with the respective states. These will mainly be the ones that increase connectivity with ports and the coal sector.

The railways has entered into JVs with 17 states. Under the JV, the states will help financing the project and also speedy land acquisition. Projects in the northeastern states may be put on the fast track for strategic reasons.