Another rail fare hike in October?

Come October, rail commuters are likely to be served another dose of fare hike. During that month, the Railways will review the fuel adjustment component (FAC) and the burden arising from the rise in diesel and electricity costs will be passed on to passengers.

The increased freight rates, supplementary and reservation charges announced in the Railway budget for 2013-14 will come into effect on April 1.

Fares for animals and birds too have been raised by at least 25 per cent. Speaking at the National Editors Conference here on Saturday, Railway Board Chairman Vinay Mittal said the FAC would be next reviewed in October. Mr. Mittal said freight charges had been hiked (with effect from April 1) by 5.7 per cent, passing on the entire burden of Rs. 3,300 crore caused by the huge hike of Rs. 10.8 a litre of diesel for bulk purchasers.

The railways had absorbed the load on itself as the fares had been increased in January. In future both the fares and freight rates would be increased to offset the loss.

Oil marketing companies effected a second hike of Re. 1 for bulk purchasers after the Railway Budget was presented. Given the policy decision to pass it on to the consignors and consumers, the next hike in passenger and freight rates is bound to come in October.

In tune with the budget proposals, the Railways have notified the 5.7 per cent across-the-board freight rate hike with effect from April 1, which would yield Rs. 4,200 crore during the next fiscal.

Though the organisation claims it had absorbed the financial loss of about Rs. 800 crore on account of passenger trains, the fact is that the budget proposals increasing reservation fee and supplementary charges for trains, tatkal charges, and clerkage and cancellation charges would mop up more than Rs. 850 crore during 2013-14.

All these revisions have been notified and will be effective on journeys starting on April 1. As per the fine print of the circulars, the tatkal charges would be realised at the rate of 10 per cent of the basic fare for reserved second class sleeper and 30 per cent of the basic fare for all other classes subject to the minimum and maximum charges specified. The increase ranges from Rs. 15 to Rs. 100 depending upon the class.

Second and sleeper classes have been spared from the hike in the reservation fees, while all other high-end passengers will have to shell out increased charges ranging from Rs. 15 to Rs. 35 a person.

Supplementary charges for superfast trains have been increased for all classes ranging from Rs. 5 to Rs. 25. Add to this increased clerkage charges of Rs. 5 for second class and Rs. 10 for all other classes.

Service tax will be levied separately on both the reservation fees and supplementary charges.

Cancellation charges too have been raised by Rs. 5 for second class, while others will have to bear additional burden ranging from Rs. 20 to Rs. 50.

Mr. Mittal said that due to paucity of funds, priority would be given to projects on the verge of completion or considered critical.

The emphasis was on improving the network in mountain States. Jammu and Kashmir, the north-east and Uttarakhand would get priority.

The Qazigund-Banihal section would be commissioned by May first week. The section would pierce the Pir Panjal Himalayan Ranges, thanks to the 11.2-km tunnel.

The Railways were in touch with the J&K government for issuing a composite rail-road ticket to facilitate hassle-free travel for passengers as a direct rail link between Jammu and Srinagar was yet to be put in place.

Trains operate only up to Udhampur and would be linked with Katra soon. But the stretch between Katra and Banihal is posing several engineering challenges.

Environmental clearance was holding up the progress in Sikkim, but work on laying the track up to Rangpo was in progress. In Manipur, work was affected by the economic blockade.

Acknowledging the strategic importance of extending the rail network right up to Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh, Financial Commissioner Vijaya Kanth said a survey had been undertaken.


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