The Railway Budget presented by Pawan Kumar Bansal on Tuesday proposed a 5.8 per cent hike in freight charges, but the basic passenger fares remained unchanged.
In his maiden Rail Budget, Bansal increased supplementary charge for super-fast trains and reservation fees, besides “clerkage,” cancellation and Tatkal charges. Thus, passengers will have to spend more on travel despite basic fares remaining the same.
The minister announced 67 new express trains and 26 passenger trains, while extending the route of 57 trains and increasing the frequency of 24 trains. Bansal, who became the first Congress member to present the Railway Budget in 17 years, introduced several e-initiatives in the Budget.
The House heard Bansal with rapt attention for the most of his 75-minute speech. But, as he started announcing new projects for different states, members trooped to the well of the House, compelling him to finish the speech in a hurry.
Bansal announced a slew of tech-savvy measures. The congestion and slowdown of the online ticketing portal will be a thing of the past by the end of the next fiscal as passengers will receive SMS alerts on reservation status.
“By the end of this calendar year, we will put in place a Next Generation e-ticketing system which will bring about a paradigm shift in internet rail ticketing. The system will be able to support 7,200 tickets per minute as against 2,000 tickets per minute at present.
The new technology will support 1,20,000 simultaneous users against the present capacity of 40,000 users with capability to easily scale up as demand increases in future,” Bansal said. While several trains will have free wi-fi facility, “Anubhuti” coaches and executive lounges will be introduced. Besides, passengers can now book tickets on the internet between 12:30 am and 11:30 pm.
The Railways is set to earn Rs 4,683 crore in the next financial year with the increase in freight charges, an upshot of imposition of fuel adjustment component and passenger ticket related hikes. The increase in freight charges is likely to generate Rs 4,200 crore for the organisation. Bansal hiked passenger fares last month to raise Rs 6,000 crore.
The freight charges will vary according to the distance. For example, basic freight would go up from Rs 100 per tonne to Rs 105.90 per tonne for 100 km. For a distance of 3,000 km, the rate would go up from Rs 1,750.40 to Rs 1,852 per tonne.
While the minimum increase was 5.75 per cent, the maximum would be 5.81 per cent. The Railways has hiked freight charges for the second time in a year. The last hike was in March 2012.
Freight rate for grain and pulses was also increased to Rs 1,403.6 per tonne, from Rs 1,326.80. Freight charges of high-speed diesel were raised from Rs 984.80 to Rs 1,041.8 per tonne, while freight for both kerosene and LPG was increased from Rs 886.30 to Rs 937.60 per tonne. Freight for urea was raised from Rs 869.60 to Rs 920 per tonne.
Bansal also disclosed that a Cabinet note to establish an independent rail tariff authority has been prepared for inter-ministerial consultations. The body will suggest revision in passenger fares and freight tariff.
The financial picture presented by the minister showed that the Railways will incur loses worth Rs 24,600 crore this year.
Bansal’s budget at a glance
* Across the board hike in freight charges by an average of about 5.8 pc
* Reservation fee for AC First and Executive classes raised to Rs 60 from Rs 35; First Class and AC-2 doubled to Rs 50
* Reservation fee for AC Chair Car, AC-3 Economy and AC-3 tier increased to Rs 40 from Rs 25
* Supplementary charges for super-fast trains raised by Rs 5 to Rs 25
* Tatkal charges for sleeper class raised by Rs 15 to Rs 25 and for AC Chair car from Rs 25 to Rs 50
* Tatkal charges in AC-3 tier increased by Rs 50; AC-2 tier and Executive class by Rs 100
* Cancellation charges increased for all classes between Rs 5 and Rs 50
* Internet ticketing from 12:30 am to 11:30 pm and e-ticketing through mobile phones
* 67 new Express trains proposed; 26 new passenger services to be introduced