Railway passenger fares set to travel north

Ministry to make good Rs 14,000-cr loss in 2008-09

 
“While passenger services consume nearly 60 per cent of the network capacity, their share in the traffic earnings amounts to only 33 per cent,” said the “Vision 2020” document prepared by the ministry. Suggesting a two-pronged approach to achieve significant cost-efficiencies, it said subsidies should be targeted only at the needy sections.

Indicating that populist measures like keeping passenger fares unchanged could not be continued any more, the document said serving second-class passengers, who continue to constitute the majority, at an affordable cost would be a key challenge.
“Loss of 18 paise per each passenger kilometre run (more than 40 per cent of the cost) is not sustainable,” said the document. Competition from various modes of transport has begun to threaten the Railway’s hold on the upper-class passenger segment.

On the other hand, second-class fares, especially suburban fares, have not been hiked for several years as they are considered critical for the underprivileged sections of society. “The net result is that passenger business of the Railways has been a losing preposition,” the document said. It suggested that cost innovations in passenger operations to bring down unit costs and progressive introduction of upgraded services would aid better cost recovery.

This includes running of 24 to 26 coaches per train in sectors with high demand, standardisation of coach compositions to the extent feasible and rationalisation of maintenance regimes to maximise rake availability for operations. “However, to reposition rail travel as a first choice option among passengers, including tourists, would call for a major makeover in the image of trains, stations and passenger services,” it said.

The measures spelt out in the document included development of modern stations and terminals, redesign of trains with pleasing and soothing colours, plush interiors and green toilets, responsive expansion of supply to match demand, raising of speed, use of Information Technology to make the entire interface of passengers with the Railways pleasant and a systematic approach to the provision of on-board services like catering, bed-roll supply and entertainment.
Redesign of second class coaches will also be a priority.

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