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Passenger fares, freight rates left untouched in rail budget

New Delhi, Feb 12 (PTI): Railway minister Mallikarjun Kharge has left passenger fares and freight rates untouched in the interim rail budget, which talks about plans about involvement of private sector and FDI to modernise the largest transport network in the country.

Presenting the interim budget for four months in the Lok Sabha, Kharge said an independent Rail Tariff Authority is being set up to rationalise fares and there was a proposal to expand dynamic pricing of tickets in line with the airline industry.

He announced 17 new premium trains, 39 express trains and ten passenger trains in the coming year, and also budgeted for providing rail connectivity to Katra and Vaishnodevi in Jammu & Kashmir, and Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh in the Northeast.

Kharge's budget speech was cut short because of continued slogan-shouting and unruly behaviour by members from Andhra Pradesh, with four Ministers even trooping into the Well over the Telangana issue.

The minister also announced more high-speed trains and said the ministry was exploring low-cost option of semi high-speed trains moving at 160-200 km per hour.

The budget speech did not touch upon passenger fares or freight rates. Kharge later said no hike has been proposed.

Annual Rail Plan has been pegged at Rs 64,305 crore with a budgetary support of Rs 30,223 crore.