The railway budget presented by Union Minister Dinesh Trivedi has introduced nominal across the board increase in passenger fares. The fare hike is the first one after Laloo Prasad Yadav launched populist budgets many years ago.
Passenger rate hike introduced in the budget is unlikely to rescue the national transporter from financial disarray. The minister has sought a budgetary support of Rs 2.5 lakh crores from the government budget for its infrastructure development in the next five years. An interesting point about the budget is that, this time also there is no substantial measure from the ministry to make it self-reliant on resources. Passenger fare increases remains insignificantly marginal as suburban railway fares increases by just 2 paise per kilometer.
Express train fare increases by 5 paise per km, 10 paise per km for AC Chair Car, 10 paise per km for 3-tier AC, 15 paise per km for 2-tierAC and 30 paise per km for 1st class AC.
Mr. Trivedi has announced many measures to increase railway safety without going for revenue mobilization attempts. “My focus will be safe safety, safety, safety,” said the minister requesting for additional central funds. Accident created deaths is increasing over the last few years for Indian Railways.
Another fresh package in the budget is raising private funds for modernization. Railway would like to use the PPP model to construct 1000 new stations in the coming five years.
Too much populism is the remains the main obstacle for railways modernization. For enhancing safety and modernization, railways need money. It may not be garnering the passenger’s money, but it is using the tax payer’s money in compensation. This year’s budget also is giving the same old message.