New Delhi: With the Ministry coming into its fold after a gap of 16 years, Congress Ministers incharge of Railways on Monday gave enough hint of taking up reform including hike in fares which its former ally TMC had strongly opposed.
"Fare will not be increased for the sake of increasing fare. If fare is increased, then it will be for providing better services to passengers," Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal said when asked whether passenger fares will be hiked in the near future.
Though former Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi had proposed fare hike across the board in the 2012-13 rail budget, he was removed from the ministry by TMC chief Mamata Banerjee and fare hike proposals were rolled back barring that of upper class.
Giving ample hint of possible fare hike, Bansal said "the improvement in services will have to be commensurate with the increase in fare."
At present, the railways are facing financial crunch and funds earmarked for many of the ongoing projects are being curtailed.
Justifying the need for a such step, the Railway Minister said "we have to ensure that the vast infrastructure of the railways does not collapse and stop functioning... So, we have to increase fares and assure the public that if there will be any hike, the public will also appreciate it because we are going to improve the services."
However, he did not go into the nitty-gritty of a possible passenger fare hike. "I have just assumed charge...I will discuss the issue threadbare."
The new Minister of State for Railways Adheer Ranjan Chowdhury, who also assumed charge, also favoured a hike in passenger fares.
"Prices have increased in every area...So why not in the railways? Common people will not oppose it (fare hike) if services will be proper," said the West Bengal Congress leader and a known critic of Mamata Banerjee.
Chowdhury said "rail services have fallen in the last few years. There are increasing number of complaints with regard to the services. Safety and security is a big concern for the railways and I think these areas need attention."