Mamata Banerjee on Sunday criticised the BJP-led Centre over the functioning of the railways in the context of dynamic pricing of train tickets and passenger safety.
Train fares reportedly soared on some routes during the ongoing festive season because of the dynamic pricing.
Mamata, who was railway minister over multiple stints during NDA (under Atal Bihari Vajpayee) and UPA II regimes, often blames factors such as negligence, lack of maintenance and the Narendra Modi government’s de-prioritisation of the railways, for perceived deterioration in standards.
The Bengal chief minister issued a statement on X, attacking the dynamic pricing introduced under the saffron regime.
“Sad to find that railway passenger fares are steeply increasing and even in Suvidha trains the fares are sometimes higher than air fares!!” the chief minister wrote, referring to Suvidha Expresses which follow dynamic pricing in fares.
Airlines generally adopt dynamic pricing and the same system for the Suvidha Express is contrary to the standard one-fare-for-one-class of travel followed by the railways.
“Where will common people go in case of emergencies?!” added the Trinamul Congress chief. “Fare hike must be curbed and reduced! And attention must be given to safety and security issues.”
The former railway minister’s statement came in the wake of reports of drastically upward climbs in the prices of train tickets on some routes connecting Bihar and Jharkhand with important cities in the country in the run-up to Chhath puja. The statement was issued hours before she made visits to some of the ghats in Calcutta, dedicated to Chhath rituals.
Union railway minister Ashwini Vaishnaw issued a statement earlier this week, dismissing reports of a shortage of berths for those opting for non-air-conditioned trains. He had said the railways were operating 6,754 additional train trips between October 1 and December 31 this year, against 2,614 in the same period last year.
In the wake of the Bahanaga railway tragedy that claimed hundreds of lives — around a third of them from Bengal — this summer, Mamata had attacked the Modi government relentlessly. She had repeatedly emphasised the need to ascertain the real reasons for the accident, instead of attempts at politicisation, suppressing facts and blame-shifting.
In her post on X on Sunday, Mamata wrote: “During my tenure as Railways Minister, I had introduced anti-collision devices and other anti-accident measures!”
“Why are they not being used to avert the increasing number of train accidents, while anti- people fare regime continues unchecked?!” she asked.
Mamata had on a number of occasions accused the Narendra Modi government of having begun the process of destroying the railways by discontinuing the separate railway budget.