Railway minister justifies fare hike, hints at more

Railway minister justifies fare hike, hints at more

Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal Friday justified the recent hike in fares and hinted at further hikes to fill the income-expenditure gap as the Rajya Sabha passed the railway budget for 2013-14.

"It is our duty that people get a safe journey at affordable prices. I agree we should not consider it a business organisation but the mandate of railways should be on a strong financial principle... We also have a national responsibility," Bansal said responding to a debate on the rail budget for 2013-14 in the upper house of parliament.

The railway passenger fares were hiked in January, a month before the rail budget was presented.

The budget was passed by voice vote.

Bansal said the government's decision to raise passenger fares was accepted by most people and the railways needed to make at least 20 percent profit to continue running.

"It is very important for railways. Operating ratio should be 80 percent or less... That means Rs.80 should be spent to earn Rs.100. That Rs.20, which is earned, will be spent on facilities," Bansal said.

"It used to be so. But in recent years, operating ratio went as high as 94.7 percent. We need to bring it back to 80 percent," he said.

The minister said the railways could not go on increasing freight charges and leave passenger fares unchanged.

"Railways used to carry 80 percent of freight. Today it's 36 percent. Do you want us to be out of the market? It is necessary to see that the freight sector should not be burdened. We must have a balanced approach," he said.

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