Freight rates raised close to Rail Budget

Tuesday’s sudden hike in rail freight rates ranging from 5 to 20 per cent across the commodities just ahead of the budget is being read differently by analysts, with some saying this may be to avoid a passenger fare hike in the Rail Budget, while others taking the move as a first step towards tweaking diesel prices.

Resource starved railways has taken recourse to almost 20 per cent hike in coal freight rates – or Rs 120 a tonne on an average, besides hiking loading charges on foodgrain and fertilizers, a move surely to send power bills soaring for the common man apart from hiking steel prices and fanning inflation. 

This is the second time in the past five months that the Railways have resorted to freight hike, which is expected to raise between Rs10,000 - Rs 12,000 worth of revenue to the mammoth organisation that has not gone in for any increase in rail fares in the last eight years.

Political analysts are of the view that this alternative mode of raising revenue might have been taken apparently to avoid a passenger fare hike even in this Budget as Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee is not in favour of it. Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi too has refused to commit himself to the touchy issue of passenger fare hike ahead f the Railway Budget on March 14. However, a parliamentary consultative committee has suggested a hike in passenger fares and mobilise internal resources to ensure safety and modernisation of the network.

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