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Cash-strapped rail works on fare hike

Tariff Tweak

New Delhi, Dec. 23 (PTI): Faced with a mounting deficit of over Rs 20,000 crore in the passenger segment, the railways are keen on raising fares by 5-10 paise per km to generate revenues of about Rs 4,000 crore.        

The hike could come close on the heels of the railways finalising the broader contours of the proposed Rail Tariff Authority (RTA), which would be placed before the cabinet in January.        

“Passenger fares should be hiked by 5-10 paise per km in the rail budget (2013-14). The financial condition of the railways is not good. We need funds, otherwise the railways will not survive,” minister of state K.J. Surya Prakash Reddy said. The other junior minister Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury also advocated an urgent hike in fare.

The railways have suffered a loss of Rs 22,000 crore in the passenger segment this year, widening the deficit to Rs 4,000 crore from last year.

However, a senior railway official said, “A decision is yet to be taken on whether to increase the passenger fare before the rail budget or announce it in the budget.”

On the amount of hike, the official said, “It is likely to be between 10 per cent and 15 per cent.” Former railway minister Dinesh Trivedi had proposed a similar hike in the last budget.

The Prime Minister’s Office has asked the chairman of the Railway Board to finalise and submit its recommendations on the constitution of the RTA by December-end.

The RTA is expected to suggest the amount of hike in passenger fare and freight tariff.        

“We are working on it (RTA),” railway minister Pawan Kumar Bansal said.

Bansal had hinted at a fare hike while taking over the railway ministry two months back.

The railways have earned Rs 67,879.95 crore till the end of October against the target of Rs 70,147.74 crore, 3.23 per cent less than the budgeted provision.        

In the passenger segment, earnings stood at Rs 17,691.43 crore against the target of Rs 18,196.46 crore, a shortfall of Rs 505.03 crore.        

Revenues from goods stood at Rs 46,805.48 crore against the target of Rs 48,580.09 crore.

Keeping in view the shortfall trend, the plan outlay for the current fiscal has been downgraded from Rs 60,100 crore to Rs 55,881 crore.        

“There are so many pending projects, which the railways could not complete because of the severe scarcity of funds. We also need funds for safety upgrading and improvement of passenger amenities,” Reddy said.

 
 
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