Be ready to shell out more for rail travel as a hike in fares has been announced. This is the first such hike in 10 years as the previous railway ministers had shied away from taking the plunge. In fact, Dinesh Chaturvedi of TMC had to lose his chair for having done so after Mamta Banerjee’s protest.
No revision in basic fare for the last 10 years has not only impacted passenger safety and amenities but has also essential replacement, operation and maintenance activities.
Union railway minister Pawan Bansal has announced the fare hike 45 days before the rail budget. The move is to keep the budget politically palatable, and will earn the railways an additional Rs. 6,600 crore a year. The freight rates have been left untouched.
The lowest hike is of 2 paise per km for second-class suburban rail and the highest is 10 paise per km for AC first class. For sleeper class, the hike is 6 paise per km.
Overall, there has been a substantial hike in first class and AC fares - the second such increase in 9 months. The hike has been timed to mop up Rs. 1,000 crore during the Kumbh mela to be held from January 14 to March 10. The Railways had recently imposed a Kumbh surcharge too - ranging from Rs. 2 -5 a ticket.
The railways has been struggling to survive and desperately needs funds for projects like dedicated freight corridors and the Mumbai elevated rail corridor plan. Total losses on account of passenger traffic are expected to touch Rs. 25,000 crore in 2012-13.