Roy does the obvious; rolls back fare hikes

Roy does the obvious; rolls back fare hikes

Nine days after his predecessor Dinesh Trivedi presented the Rail Budget, new Railway Minister Mukul Roy on Thursday rolled back the passenger fare hike proposals in the second class, sleeper class, AC chair car and AC 3-tier class.

A man looks out of a compartment of the Kalka Mail passenger train at a railway station in Firozabad March 20, 2012. Reuters

Trivedi’s fare hike proposals, in the rail budget he presented on March 14, had trigged an outcry within his Trinamool Congress party, prompting party chief Mamata Banerjee to seek his ouster from the ministry and the UPA government. After appearing to resist pressure from his party chief to quit, Trivedi eventually made way for Roy.

Roy’s populist withdrawal of the fare hike proposals is expected to bring down revenue by about Rs 4,500 crore in the coming fiscal year. However, Roy left untouched Trivedi’s hike proposal in respect of first class, AC 2-tier and AC 1st class categories.

Overall, the railways was expecting to earn Rs 5,000 to Rs 6,000 crore from the fare hike for all classes.

Now, after the partial rollback, it is expected to be just over Rs 1,000 crore, said a railway official.

Both Houses of Parliament on Thursday passed the rail budget after the railway minister withdrew fare hike and some other proposals of Trivedi’s budget.

Among the other major reversals made by Roy are: withdrawal of proposals to set up an independent Railway Tariff Regulatory Authority (RTRA), restructuring Railway Board and change in catering policy. The proposal to set up RTRA was aimed at revising fare and freight periodically by linking them to fuel prices.

“The Railways are not like the telecom or power sector where there are many competing agencies. Railways have always determined the tariff structure on their own, judiciously balancing the needs and aspirations of aam admi,” Roy said while replying to a debate on rail budget in Parliament.

Roy also withdrew Trivedi’s proposal to restructure the Railway Board by introducing two new members: Member PPP/Marketing and Member Safety Research.“The present structure of the Board represents functional expertise, experience and wealth of knowledge,” said Roy.