The BJP had issued a warning even before Railway Minister Pawan Bansal uttered the first word of the Budget - “We will not tolerate a passenger fare hike”. The Opposition was possibly ready for a walk out if something on the lines was even suggested.
And while television channels had tipped us off for more misery, the MP from Chandigarh had a trick up his sleeve.
Gallantly he declared that there would not be passenger fare hike, especially in view of the January 22 revision. And while a sigh of relief could be felt by all and sundry among the Aam Aadmi, the outwitted Opposition benches created a ruckus nevertheless.
The point that got missed out in the heat of the moment was the innocuous mentions about additional supplementary, reservation and tatkal charges.
Starting with the supplementary component, the impact of this is likely to be between Rs 5 to Rs 25 for all classes in superfast trains.
While in the second class these charges have been raised by Rs 5 to Rs 15, even sleeper class travellers will have to pay Rs 10 more. Thankfully, these two categories have been spared hike in reservation charges.
However, for AC first and executive class, reservation fee will be increased by Rs 25 to Rs 60, and the supplementary charge will go up by Rs 25 to Rs 75.
Clerkage will also go up by up to Rs 50.
As far as Tatkal charges are concerned, sleeper class passengers will have to shell out Rs 175 as opposed to Rs 50 while those travelling by AC Chair Car will have to pay Rs 200 for last minute tickets.
AC-2 tier passengers and executive travellers will have to pay out the most, that is, an additional Rs 100 for every tatkal ticket.
If you have to cancel your ticket, second class travellers would need to pay an added Rs 10 to current charges and sleeper class passengers will have to pay Rs 20.
AC Chair Car, AC-3 economy, AC-3 Tier travellers will have to pay Rs 30 more while the superior class AC I and Executive class will have to pay an additional Rs 50.
During the speech in Parliament, Pawan Kumar Bansal, had said that freight charges would be hiked by about 5% and that there would a fuel component to the total tariff which may be revised twice a year, upwards or downwards depending on the international crude and thus diesel prices.
On the face of it, this translated into say 4-8 paise more on every kilogram. But going by the track record, fuel prices only go through the roof, so expect more bad news every six months. And who would know this better than us!
There is also another angle to the story. The Rail Minister has announced an increase in the freight rate on coal from Rs 685.10 per tonne, to Rs 724.80 - a hike of 5.79 percent. With coal as the main electricity sources, this hike is likely to be borne by power generating companies, which are likely to pass on the compliment to us by way of higher electricity charges.
Pawan Kumar Bansal has strongly espoused that “a modest annual increase of 5 to 6% in the fares over a period of say ten years can provide about Rs one lakh crore by way of additional resources, which can substantially finance internal generation component of throw-forward of about Rs 75,000 crore and give additional benefits to the travelling public by way of improvement in services.”
Obviously these measures will somewhere fit in the plan that he envisages.
These subtle, nearly hidden, but substantial charges would definitely translate into costlier rail services, even if Bansal looked innocent enough when he said passenger fares will not be hiked.
But then again, no one ever said that we can take the world by face value alone.
With PTI inputs