Second class fare hike unlikely in Rail Budget

New Delhi: The Railways, facing financial constraints, are unlikely to increase second class passenger fares in its coming budget but a marginal rationalisation of freight rates is on the cards.

The possible hike on the freight front is expected in view of the competition coming from road transporters, Railway sources said.

They maintained the Ministry is not inclined towards putting any burden on second class travellers and even if an increase does take place it may be in the upper class category and a moderate one.

The total earnings of Railways for 2010-11 is pegged at around Rs 94,765 crore. The Railways are facing a reported net deficit of Rs 2,500 crore.

The budget may propose introduction of `train sets`, a new class of trains where the locomotive and coaches are a single unit, the sources said.

According to Ministry insiders, the proposal is facing stiff resistance from some quarters in the Railway Board given the exorbitant cost involved and the compatibility of such trains with the network.

There is a proposal to import these `train sets`, which are similar to TGV (France), ICE (Germany) and Shinkansen (Japan). A `train set` is expected to cost Rs 72 crore, according to the sources.

The Railway Time Table Committee, at a recent meeting in Pune, studied several such proposals and is believed to have suggested reworking of many schedules.

There is also talk of introducing dedicated `Tatkal` trains.

A common SMS-based helpline for lodging complaints in all the zones may also be included in Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee`s speech.

Her task will, however, be oriented towards finding a solution to pull the Railways out of the financial constraints. The operating ratio has been hovering at around 95.3 per cent.

The burden of the Sixth Pay Commission and losses incurred in freight loading are said to be the reasons for the decline in the financial health of the Railways.