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No threat from airlines: Rail Chairman

JP Batra says that all airlines put together don't carry the no of passengers in a year that the Railways ferry in a single day.

business Updated: Jan 04, 2006 18:14 IST
PTI

In an era of air fare war, Railways does not see any threat from domestic airlines but would not like to be complacent, charting out a slew of measures to improve passenger services and rail safety.

"I don't see a very serious threat in the immediate future," Railway Board Chairman JP Batra said on Wednesday contending that all the airlines put together don't carry the number of passengers in a year that the Railways ferry in a single day.

Asked whether the slashing of fares by the stiffly competing domestic airlines would hit Railways since, in certain cases, the first class fares were higher than air fares, he shot back "there is a large waiting list on all AC classes in Rajdhani and Shatabdi trains".

"At the same time, we are not complacent. We are paying full concentration on improving our services to passengers", he said.

In a wide-ranging interview, Batra outlined a number of innovative steps that will be initiated this year in view of projections of substantial increase in both passenger and freight segments.

He said a pilot project would soon be launched in Delhi for upgradation of passenger reservation. Under this scheme, wait-listed passengers would be accommodated to higher classes subject to availability. This would be subsequently extended throughout the country.

The Chairman said this would be done on a "random" basis to ensure that Railway functionaries and others were not able to "influence" the upgradation scheme.

To a specific question whether tariff would be revised both for passenger and freight for the next fiscal, the Chairman said during the slack period this year several concessions were given and "we will again review" it in the coming months.

"While passenger fare for the second class were reduced by Rs one last year, in the freight sector too many steps were taken including half rate loading, demurrage charges and reduction in turn-around of trains and like wise to generate additional resources for the Railways", he said.

Asked about the fare charges for the normal times, he said "considering the traffic flow (passenger and freight), we will again review it".

However, he added that the Railways needed to improve its infrastructure to carry out more and more passengers and since all the routes are saturated "it is planning Dedicated Corridors to enhance its capacity".

"We need to go in a big way for capacity expansion.... In the first phase of the dedicated freight corridor, Delhi-Mumbai and Delhi-Kolkata will be covered", he said adding other diagonals of the quadrilateral would be linked after the completion of the first phase.

He said the state-owned RITES have been engaged to do a feasibility study on the freight corridors and its report was expected within a week. The report would be sent to the Planning Commission within a fortnight and discussions would be held in the expanded Board for getting this work approved.