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Fares, freight may go up in Railway budget

The Railway budget is likely to witness a 7-8 per cent hike in passenger fares and 5-6 per cent hike in freight tariff

business Updated: Feb 18, 2003 20:54 IST

Railway fares are on their way up again. According to sources, Railway Minister Nitish Kumar proposes to effect a 7-8 per cent increase in passenger fares in this year’s rail budget. The increase in ticket prices is expected to affect most classes of passengers.

Freight charges are also likely to go up by 5-6 per cent in the budget to be presented by Kumar in the Lok Sabha on February 24.

The sources say Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Finance Minister Jaswant Singh have given their nod to the minister’s proposals.

The move may add a sizeable sum to the railway bottom line. In last year’s budget, the 10-12.5 per cent increase in fares and freight resulted in an additional Rs 1,360 crore in revenue.

The total outlay is expected to be pegged at Rs 12,537 crore for 2003-04 as against Rs 12,330 crore in the current financial year. Out of this, Rs 6,077 crore is expected to come from the Central government and Rs 3,500 crore is expected to be mobilised from market borrowings. In 2002-03, the budgetary support from the Centre was Rs 5,840 crore.

Total railway revenue is slated to be in the region of Rs 40,000 crore in 2002-03.

While the total increase in revenue could be in the region of Rs 3,000 crore next year, railway officials are tightlipped on how much of it will come from the various heads.

For, tickets and freight aren’t the only sources of income for the railways. A significant chunk of revenue is also likely to come through optimal utilisation of railway land for commercial purposes plus advertisements on platforms and trains. Value-added services such as cyber cafes and business centres on trains and platforms are also being looked at to boost income.

Sources said Kumar had recently met Jaswant Singh seeking “liberal support” in terms of financial support via budgetary resources so that he could keep the hike in fares and freight to the bare minimum.

Sources said the Finance Minister has given the green signal for floating special purpose vehicles (SPVs) to take up new projects or those lying on the sidings because of the resource crunch.

The Cabinet is scheduled to meet on Wednesday to review the progress of all projects involving an investment of Rs 100 crore and over.

Officials say that among all government departments, the railways have the maximum number of projects behind schedule. According to an internal assessment, it will take at least 25 years to complete these projects if the delays continue.

The Prime Minister’s Office has decided to go in for private-public partnership in railways modelled on the lines of the much-acclaimed national highways project, which is expected to bring in an investment of Rs 58,000 crore.

Last month, the Prime Minister had declared that the highways model would be applied in other infrastructure areas, including the railways.

First Published: Feb 11, 2003 00:29 IST