In late 2011 and early 2012, the announcement for the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections had delayed a rail freight rate hike. This year, the impending assembly elections in Gujarat appear to be doing the same to the long-pending passenger fare hike.

Even though Union Railway Minister Pawan Bansal reiterated his stance on supporting a hike in passenger fares, he has refrained from commenting on the timing of the increase for the non-AC passenger segment that had escaped the proposed fare hike earlier this year.

Bansal also said that the Railways is hiring to fill over two lakh vacancies. “We had about two lakh vacancies. We have hired about 1.2 lakh staff in the last two years,” Bansal said recently. 16 new train services will be launched over the next 10 days, he said.

Pointing out the need to de-politicise rail fares, Bansal expressed his support for the rail tariff authority, but added that the proposal will have to go through the usual procedure before a tariff authority is set up — finalisation at the Ministry level, inter-ministerial consultations, and finally a Cabinet nod.

The Minister said there will be renewed focus on awarding the locomotive and coach projects on a public private partnership (PPP) basis.

He added that emphasis will be also laid on implementing the elevated high speed rail corridor in Mumbai at a cost of Rs 20,000 crore. Another focus for Railways will be on implementing the Ahmedabad-Mumbai high speed rail corridor at a cost of Rs 73,000 crore.

(This article was published on November 22, 2012)
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