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Trains with dynamic tariffs

- Interim budget proposes 38 new expresses

New Delhi, Feb. 12 (PTI): The interim railway budget for 2014-15 today contained reforms proposals for opening the sector to domestic and foreign investors and a tariff authority to rationalise fares and freights, end cross subsidisation and enlarge the dynamic fare scheme.

The vote-on-account, presented by railway minister Mallikarjun Kharge, does not contain any revision of fares and freight rates in keeping with the tradition of not tinkering with them since it is for the first four months of next fiscal.

The budget proposed introduction of 18 new premium trains, 38 express trains and five passenger trains.

Kharge, who took charge of the ministry after the exit of Pawan Kumar Bansal eight months ago, said that apart from attracting private investment from domestic sectors, a proposal is under consideration to enable foreign direct investment (FDI) to foster creation of world-class rail infrastructure.

He said an independent Rail Tariff Authority is being set up to advise the government on fixing of fares and freight rates.

“This would lead to an era of rationalisation of fares and freight structures for improving the fare-freight ratio and gradually bringing down cross-subsidisation between different segments,” said the minister who had to cut short his speech and lay it on the table amid din over Telangana issue.

Encouraged by the success of a premium AC special train between Delhi and Mumbai, the railways have decided to run 17 more such trains in busy routes and explore the possibility of running semi-high speed trains at 160-200kmph to Chandigarh and Agra from here.

The premium train to Mumbai, run to handle the extra rush during Christmas and New Year, had fetched an increased earning of about 48 per cent as compared to Mumbai Rajdhani as the fares were charged under dynamic fare mechanism scheme much like that done by airlines.

“Such dynamic pricing was widely appreciated by users and media and gave increased earnings of about 48 per cent as compared to Rajdhani services in the same sector. We are considering operation of this scheme on a larger scale,” Kharge said.

The minister said there are seasonal and occasion-specific instances when demand for travel by certain train goes up and passengers are prepared on such occasions to pay more to undertake journey.

Most of these train are weekly or bi-weekly and would run in routes such as Howrah-Pune, Howrah-Mumbai, Kamakhya-Chennai, Mumbai-Patna, Nizamuddin-Madgaon, Sealdah-Jodhpur, Ahmedabad- Delhi Sarai Rohilla and Trivandrum-Bangalore.

Some premium trains have also been introduced to Katra and rail connectivity to the holy town is expected to be commissioned soon.

The minister announced 39 new express trains, 10 passenger trains, four MEMU and three DMU trains.

The following are some of the highlights of the budget:

*Passenger rail service to Katra and Vaishnodevi to start shortly.

*Railways to expand services to Meghalaya.

*Trains to display info on next stations, arrival times.

*Waitlisted passengers to get automatic PNR status update once their tickets get confirmed.

*More Jan Ahaar outlets, escalators at stations.

*Bio-toilet facility to be provided in more trains.

*Upgradation scheme extended to AC Chair Car and Executive Chair car passengers.

*Railways to encourage transportation of milk.

* Steps to reduce running of empty freight carriages.