New Delhi, June 24: Bowing to pressure from within and from allies, the government today partially rolled back some of its stiff railway fare hike proposals by exempting second class suburban travel up to 80 km from the 14.2 per cent rise in fares and reducing the severity of the increase for monthly season ticket-holders.
In Bengal, for example, this will mean a person travelling to Bongaon in North 24 Parganas from Sealdah, a distance of 76.3 km, will not have to pay the increased fare.
“There shall be no increase in second class suburban ordinary fare up to 80 km,” said a railway notification today.
The railways also gave some relief to monthly ticket holders — commuters will have to pay for 15 trips, instead of 30, for travelling unlimited times in a month.
However, the hike of 14.2 per cent in the fares will apply on the monthly ticket.
“Second class monthly season ticket fares of suburban and non-suburban trains will be on the basis of 15 single journeys instead of 30 as was announced on June 20,” said a senior railway ministry official. The official said those who had purchased monthly tickets earlier at pre-revised rates would not have to pay the difference in the fare.
Under the revised order today, the increase in the fares of monthly tickets for up to 5 km will come down by Rs 50 from Rs 150 to Rs 100 compared with the June 20 revision. For a distance up to 150 km, the benefit will be Rs 520.
While announcing the across-the-board hike last week, the railways had doubled the number of trips for which the commuters had to pay to 30.
In today’s revised order, the railways also said the fare hike in the unreserved segment for all journeys shall come into force from June 28 as against June 25 earlier.
A group of MPs from the BJP and the Shiv Sena had met railway minister Sadananda Gowda earlier in the day to stress the impact that the new fares would have on lakhs of commuters in Mumbai.
With the Maharashtra elections looming on the horizon, BJP ally Shiv Sena has come down hard on the Centre.
For 15 years, the BJP and Sena have been consigned to the role of the Opposition in Maharashtra. But in the recent national election, the alliance won 42 of the state’s 48 seats, suggesting that a window has opened up for wresting power from the coalition of the Congress and Sharad Pawar’s NCP which has governed the state since 1999.
Costlier train rides could have stymied the BJP-Sena's comeback by alienating voters just when they seem to be ready for a change, the parties' representatives have informed top leaders.
Finance minister Arun Jaitley and other BJP leaders had defended the hike as necessary; they said the previous UPA government had backtracked on a plan to increase fares just before the national election, leaving the unpopular decision on Narendra Modi’s new administration.