As the railways ministry braces to hike passenger fares after a decade, it may introduce a flexible increase in sleeper and 3-tier AC classes, linking it to the fluctuations in fuel prices.In a first-of its-kind move, the ministry will also conduct a survey to know what more it can offer to upper-class passengers before asking them to pay more for their train journeys.
A private agency will be asked to conduct the survey for air-conditioned coach passengers, a top railway official told HT.
Railways minister Dinesh Trivedi also wants a survey on freight rates, which are highest in this part of Asia.
“In 2-tier AC and first class, increased fare will come with enhanced facilities after we get the survey report,” a top railways official told HT.
Former railways minister Nitish Kumar had increased passenger fares in 2002.
Lalu Prasad's tenure (2004-2009) saw fare cuts while the railways paced towards financial woes. The operating ratio (expenses incurred to earn R100) jumped from 90.5% in 2008-09 to 94.6% in 2010-11. The 2011-12 budget estimates predict the OR at 91.1%.
In June, then Railway Board chairman Vivek Sahai told a parliamentary panel that an increase of 10-15% fare can churn an additional revenue of between R2,000 and R2,500 crore.
During the past two years, Trinamool Congress chief and railways minister Mamata Banerjee refused to listen to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to hike passenger fares.
Now, the UPA brass is determined to rationalise the passenger fares to tackle the fund crunch. The four railways unions too, recently requested Trivedi to hike fares and generate more income.
“They fear if the Indian railways become another Air India, the workers might not get salaries in time,” Trivedi told Hindustan Times.