Trivedi pitches for regulator to suggest fare hike

New Delhi: Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi today strongly pitched for a regulatory body that would suggest train fares and freight rates.

Trivedi also advocated "de-politicisation" of the Railways for undertaking modernisation of the national transporter. "There is lot of room (for a regulatory authority). If you want to de-politicise, you must have some kind of regulator which deals with the fare and freight and quality," Trivedi said at the sidelines of a FICCI conference.

He said "I always say if I am a parliamentarian, I cannot decide my salary. There has to be somebody else who would tell us what should be the fare and the freight rate."

Trivedi, known for his pro-reform agenda said, "Unless and until you de-politicise the Railways I am not sure whether we can modernise it as a long-term policy."
However, he hastened to add that "de-politicise does not mean somebody is interfering. There is no interference at all I must say. I am talking of policy for 50 years and not for two years or three years. Parliament should decide on it (regulator). There has to be a long term policy."

Referring to the Vision 2020 made by his predecessor Mamata Banerjee, he said, "If you cannot implement the Vision 2020 with the change of government then what is the point? So a vision which has been passed by Parliament should be carried forward."

Asked whether regulator should be under Railway Ministry or outside of the purview of the ministry, he said, "We can start somewhere. Ultimately regulatory body must have an authority. If they do not have authority then what is the point?"
"There is a need for a regulator. The time has come where we have to bite the bullet. Time has come where we have to at least talk about it," the Minister said.

"I am personally in favour of regulatory body for railways which will benefit it in the long run. But it all depends on parliament and government. If Parliament and government feels then it can be done."

Asked about the shortage in coal supply for plants, he blamed it on congestion. "Railways have enough rakes. The problem is the congestion. If the route is congested then how do you send the rakes. We need to decongest the route that is why we need doubling of tracks."

About the possibility of restructuring of Railway Board for better results, he said, "Restructuring is a continuous process. It is now operation oriented it should be customer oriented. Unless we know what customer wants then it will be difficult for us to carry forward. "The focus of the organisation structure should be changed. Safety is supreme. There cannot be any compromise on safety. Safety can be ensured when we modernise the system."

Giving the example of Delhi Metro, he said, "Unless railway system is modernised we cannot achieve 100 per cent safety. About the fare hike, he said, "When the fare increases major share goes for improvement of AC segment. The time has come when we improve the general class segment. I feel there is lot of rooms for improvement in general class."

He said currently the general class is neglected. "We need to get the money and put it more in general classes and there has to be a guaranteed reservation for all the classes. There should not be any waiting list and everybody should get confirmed seats. Unless I improve condition in general class, I will not be satisfied."