India announces hike in train fares
The Indian Railways on Wednesday announced an increase in train fares to be effected from midnight on Jan 21, the first major hike in ten years aimed at countering rising costs and tackling modernisation needs.
Announcing the hikes, Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal said at a press conference:"Railways is hiking fares with an aim to maintain safety and cleanliness."
He said the railways expects to get Rs 6,600 crore from the hike, keeping into account the incremental traffic volume as well.
Speaking on the decision, he said: "There was no hike for the last 10 years. Input costs have increased immensely while fares have remained stagnant....Given economic slowdown, we have not been able to so far achieve this year's targets in either freight or fare side."
Bansal said: "There will be no fresh hike in the Railways Budget."
The fare hike ranges from 2 paise per km to 10 paise per km across classes.
"All fares hike will be in multiples of Rs 5. There will be hikes across all classes," Bansal said, adding that a hike in freight fares could also be considered.
The hike will rake in an additional Rs 1,200 crore between January 21 and March 31 this year, the minister said.
Opposition parties united to criticise the hike with both the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) panning the move.
Calling the hike "unjustified," the CPI-M demanded that the government withdraw the increase in all categories except in the top two classes of AC first class and AC two tier.
The Trinamool Congress (TMC), an estranged ally of the Congress-led government also slammed the move.
Former Railway Minister and TMC leader Mukul Roy said the hikes were unnecesaary and the Parliament was "bypassed" on the issue.
"This government is carrying on a loot. The manner in which the railway fares were hiked by 20 per cent and Parliament by-passed to do this is completely improper and against the interests of people," the senior Trinamool Congress leader told journalists at the State Secretariat.
Indian business lobbies however welcomed the move as Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) Director-general Chandrajit Banerjee said: "This marginal increase is going to be important in helping the railways to reduce its losses. Also, this will lead to more safety and better services for the passengers."
The president of the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry (ASSOCHAM) Rajkumar Dhoot said: "The railway infrastructure was in dire straits... to make railways a viable and growing enterprise, the government should not shy away from increasing the tariff as and when necessary."
One of the world's largest railway networks comprising 115,000 km of tracks over a route of 65,000 kms, the Indian Railways transports over 25 million passengers daily.
Fare hike in various categories:
Second Class Ordinary Suburban - 2 paise per km
Second Class Ordinary Non Suburban - 3 paise per km
Second Class Mail Express Trains - 4 paise per km
AC chair car - 10 paise per km
AC first class - 10 paise done earlier + 3 paise per km
AC two tier - 15 paise done earlier + 6 paise per km
AC three tier - 10 Paise per km
AC first class executive class - 30 paise done earlier + 10 paise per km
First Class - 03 paise per km
Sleeper Class - 6 paise per km