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February 25, 1999


Steep fare, freight hike to net Rs 9 billion for railways

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A steep hike in upper class fares and a four per cent increase in freight rates have been proposed in the Railway Budget for 1999-2000 to mobilise Rs 9 billion during the next financial year.

The proposed fare hike, ranging up to 16 per cent, would be effective from April 1.

Presenting the Railway Budget for the second consecutive year in the Lok Sabha today, Railway Minister Nitish Kumar spared the passengers travelling by ordinary second class passengers and second class season ticket holders.

Of the proposed additional revenue of Rs 9 billion, Rs 7 billion would be realised from freight traffic, while the remaining Rs 2 billion from coach traffic, including passenger, parcel and luggage.

A parity structure has been created for rationalising the fare structure of all classes, taking the fare of second class mail/ express as the base. This has been done keeping the comfort level of different classes. The rationalised fares are as follows:

* sleeper class -- 1.55 times
* air-conditioned chair car -- thrice
* air-conditioned three-tier sleeper -- 4.5 times
* first class -- 5.25 times
* air-conditioned two-tier sleeper -- 7.2 times
* air-conditioned first class -- 14.4 times.

The minister said the freight rates of all commodities would be increased by four per cent.

He, however, announced a 25 per cent concessional freight rate for traffic hauled for distances up to 50 kilometres.

The minimum distance for charge in upper classes of mail and express trains is proposed to be revised to a uniform figure of 100 kilometres.

The minimum distance for charge in the sleeper class, which is at present 200 kilometres, would not be applicable in certain sections where railways have declared sleeper coaches to be unreserved.

Normal sleeper class fares only would be levied in such cases, the minister said.

He said the proposed increase in fare and freight was less than the general inflation in prices.

The plan outlay for 1999-2000 has been kept at Rs 97 billion, an increase of Rs 9.45 billion over the revised estimates of last year.

This increase in plan outlay has been possible due to an increase in capital from the general exchequer to the level of Rs 25.40 billion as against Rs 22 billion in the previous year.

This 26 per cent increase in plan outlay is the highest capital support from the general exchequer since 1993-94.

Thanking Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha and the Planning Commission for the increase in capital support to the railways, Kumar requested Sinha to increase it further by Rs 2 billion so that in the 'Passenger Year' the railways could serve the passengers in 'still better ways'.

To extend the railway network to new areas, Rs 6 billion has been provided, representing an increase of 59 per cent over the revised estimates.

For speedier progress of metropolitan transport projects in Calcutta, Madras and Bombay, an allocation of Rs 3 billion has been made. The allocation is 52 per cent more than the previous year's.

For passenger amenities, the allocation has been increased by 45 per cent.

A provision of Rs 6.45 billion has been made for gauge conversion in the next year.

Sixteen new lines, six gauge conversion projects and five doubling projects (electrification) have been proposed for the next year.

A sum of Rs 340 billion has been kept aside for these projects.

Resolving to strengthen the railway system, he said, ''We shall intensify our campaign against ticketless travel.''

The minister said it would be their earnest effort to not only provide reliable and better services but also make the railway staff behave more courteously and ensure that the passengers get reservation easily.

At least one station in each division would be developed as a model station where higher level of passenger facilities would be provided. Besides, select passenger terminals would be upgraded.

For the benefit of passengers, one computerised reservation terminal would be given to each authorised rail agent on an experimental basis.

He also assured that improved amenities would be provided on all passenger trains. However, in the first phase, special emphasis would be given to the maintenance of 30 mail and express trains, apart from the Rajdhani and Shatabdi trains, so as to ensure that there are no complaints in this respect.

During the ''Passenger Year,'' he said all efforts would be made to control the activities of the touts. To begin with, efforts would be made in this regard at Calcutta, Bombay, Delhi and Madras.

Tatkal facilities would be made available for more trains. Till now these were available for about 100 trains.

To upgrade passenger safety, drivers and guards of all trains would be provided by March this year with walkie-talkie sets for making emergency contacts. These would also be provided to drivers and guards of goods trains in the second phase, he said.

To prevent accidents due to human failure, track circuiting is also being provided in a planned manner, he said. Besides, to avoid overshooting of signals, a pilot project of a radio-based automatic train control system on the Agra-Mathura section has been included in the Budget proposals.

Many measures have been proposed to increase revenue during the next financial year, including five-fold hike in penalty for ticketless travellers, from Rs 50 to Rs 250 and an increase in commercial advertisements at railway stations.

Gross traffic receipts are estimated at Rs 324.11 billion including the realisation of Rs 2 billion of outstanding dues. Ordinary working expenses of the railways are estimated at Rs 257.40 billion which is higher than the revised estimates of the current year of Rs 233.75 billion.

The total working expenses would be Rs 302.83 billion, leading to net traffic receipts of Rs 21.28 billion. Net miscellaneous receipts are estimated at Rs 4.30 billion, with a net revenue of Rs 25.58 billion.

The railway minister offered special concessions for handicapped persons, accredited media correspondents and recipients of President's police medal.

While the handicapped persons with an escort would be entitled to 75 per cent concession in fares while travelling by air-conditioned three-tier and 50 per cent while travelling by other air-conditioned classes, media correspondents would be entitled to 50 per cent concessions even in the air-conditioned class. Till now they had been entitled to only 25 per cent concession on first and air-conditioned classes.

The recipients of President's police medal would be given 30 per cent concession in fair on all classes after 60 years of age.

Besides, licensed porters would be given one set each of privilege ticket order for self and spouse in addition to one second class pass already given for self.



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