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Suspense over rail fare

New Delhi, Feb. 7: Railway minister Pawan Kumar Bansal did not rule out another hike in passenger fares after meeting finance minister P. Chidambaram today.

“We have to form our view on this (increasing rail fare) within the next few days. We are working on it,” Bansal said.

With the market pricing of diesel straining railway finances by Rs 3,300 crore per annum, a hike in passenger fares in the budget is not being ruled out.

Bansal will present the rail budget on February 26.

After a gap of a decade, the cash-strapped railways last month hiked tariff by about 2-10 paise per km, which is expected to fetch it Rs 6,600 crore annually.

During the current financial year (up to March 31), the hike will help the railways to mop up an additional Rs 1,200 crore.

The meeting with Chidambaram comes amid the railway ministry seeking Rs 38,000 crore as general budgetary support for fiscal 2013-14.

The railways had got Rs 24,000 crore as budgetary support in the current fiscal.

Bansal said, “Funds are required to lay down new lines, develop stations and for ongoing projects.

“Fare is one source but funds can be garnered from other non-traffic avenues which we are exploring,” he added.

Indian Railways has 43,000 hectares of vacant land which can be used for commercial purposes.

It is contemplating levying a surcharge on special trains and charging more on services such as Tatkal.

“The hike could be marginal to compensate for the increase in diesel prices as we had not anticipated the government’s decision,” a railway board official said.

The railways would have to pay Rs 3,300 crore more annually for diesel. Almost 50 per cent of the income from the increased passenger fares will be wiped out; and it could be more if diesel prices moved upwards.

The oil companies hiked the diesel price by Rs 10.80 per litre for bulk purchasers such as the railways, which spends around Rs 24,000 crore annually on fuel with diesel constituting Rs 16,000 crore.

 
 
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