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New Railway Minister hints at fare hike

New Delhi, Oct 29 (PTI): The new Railway Minister, Pawan Kumar Bansal, on Monday hinted at an increase in passenger fares to improve services in the railways.

“Fare will not be increased for the sake of increasing fare. If fare will be increased, then it will be for providing better services to the passengers,” Bansal said when asked whether passenger fares will be hiked in the near future.

“The improvement in services will have to be commensurate with the increase in fare,” he said after assuming charge at Rail Bhawan here.

At present, the railways are facing a 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.”

On the issue of Dedicated Freight Corridor (DFC), Bansal said, “We have to expeditiously work on DFC as it will benefit the people. All the regions of the country will get their due from the railways.” He also promised to improve the ticket reservation system to ensure genuine passengers get confirmed tickets.

“We will try to improve the ticket reservation process with the help of technology so that there is less problem in getting tickets,” he said.

Emphasising on the need safety and security, Bansal said, “We are aware of the fact that the primary concern is the safety of passengers. We have to do our best to ensure security of the passengers. Cleanliness is also important besides punctuality. We have to give a clean environment in the trains.”

Bansal said, “It is our endeavour to strengthen the physical and financial position of the railways. We have to move with the times.”

The new Minister of State for Railways Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, who also assumed charge, 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 TMC chief 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.”