Come January 22, rail travel will cost more after an across-the-board hike in fares was announced Wednesday — first such increase in 10 years.
A one-way sleeper class ticket between New Delhi and Mumbai Central, which now costs Rs. 388, will be priced at Rs. 465 while an AC three-tier ticket between New Delhi and Patna will go up by Rs. 106 to Rs. 1,005.
In an unusual but not an unexpected move, railway minister Pawan Bansal Wednesday announced the hike one-and-a-half months before he presents the rail budget on February 26. The move, which will keep the budget politically palatable, according to Bansal, will earn the railways an additional Rs. 6,600 crore a year.
The railways is struggling to stay afloat and is also in a desperate need for funds for projects such as dedicated freight corridors and the Mumbai elevated rail corridor plan. Losses in the passenger section were expected to touch Rs. 25,000 crore in 2012-13, Bansal said."No revision in basic fare for the last 10 years... has not only impacted critical aspects related to passenger safety and amenity but has also affected essential replacement, operation and maintenance activities," he said.
The lowest hike is of two 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 six paise per km.
Overall, there has been a substantial hike in first class and AC fares - second such increase in nine months.
In April last, these fares were increased by the then rail minister Dinesh Trivedi. Though he proposed a hike across all categories, his successor, Mukul Roy, kept the fares unchanged except for the first class and AC sections.
Bansal left the freight charges, which form the bulk of revenue, untouched.
The last time passenger fares were increased was in 2002 when Nitish Kumar was the rail minister.
The hike has been timed to mop up Rs. 1,000 crore during the Kumbh mela, which will be held from January 14 to March 10. Railways recently imposed a Kumbh surcharge - ranging from Rs. 2 per ticket to Rs. 5 per ticket.