KOLKATA: Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi is set to venture where his predecessors, including Mamata Banerjee, have feared to tread. In what is becoming increasingly clear, the Railway Minister may hike train fares in the upcoming railway Budget.
Railway fares have not been raised since 2002-’03 and now with a slew of innovations that Trivedi has planned, he may have to take the unpopular step.
In the last few days, Trivedi had hinted at a possible hike and on Friday the Railway board concurred that the only way to increase revenues was through fares and freight, solidifying the possibility of a hike.
“We have received Rs 20,000 crore Budget support this time (2011-‘12). But if we want to do exponentially well and move forward, we need much more than that. We would be happy if we get more than that this year… Railways is a part of transportation and we have freight and fares; so bulk of earnings has to come from there,” said Vinay Mittal, chairman of the Railway Board.
The railways is purportedly annually losing Rs 16,000 crore in the absence of fare rationalisation, thus, forcing Trivedi to virtually go against Didi. Sources say that the ‘aam aadmi’ would be insulated from the hike and Trivedi would target passengers travelling in AC coaches. Trivedi has ambitious plans of revamping the Indian railways, including roping in public-private partnership, better safety and services.
“(We need) safety and modernisation. For modernisation we need to change signalling system. We will introduce TPWS (Train Protection and Warning System) in Kolkata Metro by March-April. This system enables the train to stop automatically when there is a red light even if the driver fails to stop the train,” said Trivedi.
Putting emphasis on the PPP model, Mittal said: “For the PPP models to succeed, private entrepreneurs who are going to invest money in the railway projects must also get a level playing field. Without compromising the railways’ interest, we must also take care of the private players as they are putting money into it.”