Pressure is mounting on Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu to raise passenger fares. The Railway bureaucracy has compared bus fares with fares of general and sleeper classes on popular routes to make the point that train fares are suppressed.
According to the calculations, a small tube of toothpaste costs more than the lowest train fare from Delhi to Chandigarh. The bus fares for the route are much more.
In case of longer routes, the 1,662 km distance between Chennai and Kolkata has a train fare (general class) equivalent to a kilogram of tea. Around 20 such instances have been placed before the minister to put train fares in context.
The elaborate exercise — to convince the political dispensation that Indians are paying more for public transport — comes at a time when the loss in the passenger segment has touched Rs 32,000 crore and the Railways is bracing for a higher salary bill with the Seventh Pay Commission this year.
Prabhu’s stance towards a fare hike has been negative. He has instructed that all avenues of non-fare revenue generation be explored first.
The effort by the bureaucracy comes with the expectation that fares could be raised after the election season ends in May.