Congress ministers ask for panel to check rail fares

Some senior Congress cabinet members has recently urged the Centre to set up a rail tariff regulatory commission that will take stock of fares.

Their request was placed even before a panel, headed by businessman Deepak Parekh, recommended that the Centre should increase passenger train fares to help mobilize funds for infrastructure plans. Even before a high level panel headed by leading businessman Deepak Parekh recommended to the centre to hike passenger fares for mobilising funds for infrastructure projects, a section of senior Congress cabinet members have urged the centre to set up a rail tariff regulatory commission to take stock of the existing fare deciding system.

According to a senior Congress minister, the idea of setting up a commission was mooted by chief minister Prithviraj Chavan during his meeting with Railway Board chairman Vinay Mittal here. “Chavan said sooner or later, the Centre would have to set up a rail tariff regulatory commission to take a professional decision on fares,” he said.

The minister said ever since the railway portfolio was entrusted with Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress, populist decisions, particularly on fares and freight charges, were taken without considering the adverse impact on economy. “In the past seven to eight years, Trinamool never agreed to raise passenger train fares, and so the Railway Board faioled to mobilize funds even for routine work. Several projects, particularly those in rural areas, had to be abandoned,” he said.

Echoing him, a senior bureaucrat said if a rail tariff regulatory commission came into force, the members would take a realistic view of the existing structure and hike fares if needed. “At the moment, even if fares are fixed by the administration, final decision is taken by political heads,” he said.


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