Passengers spared of hike as Rlys may use freight route
New Delhi, Feb 26 : In what is regarded as the last Railway
Budget before 2014 Lok Sabha polls and elections to six state assemblies, Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal today levied no further fare hikes on the passengers although the transport behemoth poised itself to effect a hike in the near future in freight charges by seeking to link the revision with decontrolled diesel prices.
Mr Bansal's maiden budget was marred by noisy protests mainly from the Opposition benches who sought to vent their anger
against ignoring the needs of their respective states. The situation went very ugly forcing Speaker Meira Kumar to adjourn the Lok Sabha abruptly.
Outside the Parliament too, the proposals did not seem to go down well with the Sensex touching a three month low plunging by 316 points.
Mr Bansal, however, sugarcoated his marginal levy of supplementary charges by announcing the running of 67 new trains. The Railways would also scale up the manufacturing and maintenance facilities at various railway facilities and several improved passenger friendly measures including steps to increase sale of e-tickets using next generation modes of communications.
There has been additional burden on the travelling public by way of marginally enhanced supplementary charges for superfast trains, reservation fees, clerkage charge and Tatkal fees.
The linking of freight charges with decontrolled diesel and
petrol prices would essentially mean the the tariff revisions will
be taking place as and when there is an increase in fuel prices.
Possibly the budget announcement hides the stress on the increase
because of impending elections in States and the Lok Sabha.
Stating that the UPA Government is sensitive to the concerns of the people, the Railway Minister said passenger fares had just been increased to net Rs 6,600 crore. The Railways will absorb the impact of the Rs 850 crore on account of hike in prices of petroleum products, Mr Bansal said.
He also proposed the setting up of Railway Tariff Regulatory
Authority, which will start working from the next fiscal.
Seeking to allay concerns about Railways' earnings, Railway Board Chairman Mittal said that the organisation was able to keep expenses in check. ''It had managed to achieve an operating ratio of 88 per cent this year as against above 90 per cent in the previous years,''Mr Mittal said.