Bansal rules out any roll back of fare hike

Cash-strapped Railways on Wednesday announced about 25 percent passenger fare hike for all classes to be effective from January 22.

New Delhi: Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal Thursday ruled out any possibility of partial reduction of the proposed hike in train fares saying "there is no scope for roll back".

Cash-strapped Railways on Wednesday announced about 25 percent passenger fare hike for all classes to be effective from January 22.

"Where is the scope for considering it? There is no scope for roll back. It is a decision taken after considering all factors," Bansal said when asked about the possibility of partial reduction of the hike in the face of opposition from political parties.

"Railway system will collapse. We need funds for upgrading safety, augmentation of capacity and maintaining cleanliness at rail premises. Then it is not a huge increase also," he said.

To a question whether there will be any freight hike in near future, he indirectly ruled out the possibility saying, "We will not price ourselves out from the market. Our effort is to increase the market share in freight which is currently 36 percent whereas in US it is 48 percent. We have to remain competitive in the market."

Asked about the percentage of passenger fare hike, he said, "It is difficult to say now."

However, a senior Railway Ministry official said, "On an average, the hike is ranging between 20 percent and 25 percent though in some segments hike is more than 30 percent and in some sectors it is less than 15 percent also."

Railways is expected to mop up about Rs 6600 crore annually due to the hike in fare.

He said, "We are expecting to earn about Rs 6600 crore in a year keeping the the incremental traffic in mind. The earnings in the next two months in the current fiscal is expected to be about Rs 1200 crore."

The hike will also apply to Kumbh Mela passengers who have purchased tickets in advance. It is estimated that 45 lakh pilgrims will avail train journey to reach Kumbh Mela in Allahabad. Railways has pressed into service 1800 extra coaches keeping the pilgrim rush in mind.

Asked whether he tried to bypass Parliament by announcing fare hike before the Rail Budget, he said, "We are not bypassing Parliament. Parliament has given the power to the Railway Board to decide on fare hike of its own."

About the prevailing financial condition he said, "Our plan size has been slashed to Rs 56,000 crore from Rs 60,000 crore. Now it has been further reduced to Rs 51,000 crore."

On the Rail Tariff Authority, he said, "It will be set up with Cabinet approval."

Prime Minister's Office has instructed Railways to expedite the process of constituting RTA as the proposed panel is expected to suggest increase in fares taking all input costs like fuel and power cost into consideration.

However, Bansal said, "It will not be possible to set up before January 15."