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Passenger Fares Likely To Rise In Next Rail Budget

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The next Indian Rail Budget to be presented early next year could contain a proposal for raising fares to pass on the burden of rising power cost to passengers.
The fuel adjustment component-linked tariff revision due in December will be effected in the Rail Budget in February and there is a need for upward revision as energy cost has gone up by over 4 per cent in the recent months, said a senior Railway Ministry official.
According to Railways' policy, fare and freight revision linked to fuel and energy cost are being done twice a year. The last revision was done in June wherein passenger fares were revised by 4.2 per cent and freight rates by 1.4 per cent.
Hinting at a possible fare hike, new Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu said recently that "some burden has to be shared by people."
Asked about the possibility of raising train fares to meet the growing expenses in Railways, Prabhu, known for his pro-reform approach, did not rule out the possibility. He said: "Passenger service should be improved before increasing the fares. Safety cannot be compromised. There is a need for big investment. Some burden has to be shared by people." 
Expressing concern over the Railways' financial health, Prabhu highlighted the need for massive investment to meet the safety requirement and upgrading the rail infrastructure.
India's British-built railways, the world's fourth largest, have laboured under years of inadequate investment and much of the network is now slow, badly congested.
India has engaged China and Japan in its efforts to modernise its rail system and build high-speed networks.
China will conduct and pay for a feasibility study in India for a 1,750 km high-speed rail line to link Delhi with Chennai.
The Japan International Cooperation Agency is conducting a study for a high-speed 500 km line between Mumbai and Ahmedabad. The project would cost 600 billion rupees ($9.70 billion).
"Railways requires big investment. There is no fund for investment. There is requirement of Rs 6 lakh crore to Rs 8 lakh crore for completion of announced projects," he had said.
The minister, who is meeting MPs in batches to make himself aware of their demands and aspirations before the Rail Budget, said to meet these demands, the requirement is about Rs 20,000 crore.
While the cross-subsidisation in passenger sector is around Rs 26,000 crore, there is a fall in passenger bookings too. Passenger bookings have come down during April-November by 1.43 per cent as compared to the corresponding period last year.
The number of passenger tickets booked during this period was 5581.33 million compared to 5662.54 million in the same period last year, according to Railway Ministry data.