A day before the rail budget, the buzz at Rail Bhawan was that it may propose a reduction in second-class and upper-class fares, as well as a cut in freight rates to help control the prices of essential commodities.
Interacting with reporters on Sunday, Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav, however, only said people could expect a "good" budget as the interests of all sections of customers, as well as safety and security issues, had been kept in mind.
Although he declined to say whether passenger and freight fares would be changed, Yadav appeared keen to go down in history as a railway minister who did not increase passenger fares for three consecutive years and still managed a huge revenue surplus. "I will not say anything — whether the passenger and freight fares are going to be changed," he said. "We have kept the interests of the common man (in mind) in the earlier budget too."
Asked whether freight rates would be cut to check inflation, Yadav said, "The government has already taken steps in this regard. Wait till tomorrow to see what we are going to do."
A railway official said a token reduction in sleeper-class fares, suburban fares and monthly season tickets was likely. All AC-class fares may be reduced marginally in line with the strategy formulated last year to compete with low-cost airlines. Yadav may also announce a number of air-conditioned Garib Raths and promise a major role for private players in modernising and developing infrastructure for the railways.