The across-the-board fare hike announced by the railway ministry has come after a decade of populist inertia. But for suburban train travellers here, the increase that becomes operational from January 21 is coming too soon. That's because local train travel has already become more expensive since New Year's Day.
Railway authorities claim the January 1 upgrade wasn't a fare hike, rather raised surcharge for repayment of loan taken for the Mumbai Urban Transport Project (MUTP). "We are increasing the fare after almost 10 years. The earlier announcement was done so no need arises for borrowing for works and projects," said Subodh Jain, General Manager, Central Railway (CR). However, that's a small solace for commuters, and even some railway officials appeared flummoxed by the timing.
"This announcement two months ahead of the railway budget was unexpected," said a senior official from CR. From January 21, suburban passengers will be charged 2 paise more per km, and non- suburban travellers will have to bear an increase of 4 paise per km. So, commuters in the habit of purchasing monthly passes will have to shell out more.
Fares for second class in long-distance trains will be up by 4 paise per km, while for first class and second class ordinary (non-suburban), the hike will be 3 paise per km. Interestingly, there's no change in ticket rates for first class in the suburban section. Post the increase, a Rajdhani passenger will have to pay Rs 1,915 instead of the present Rs 1,495 for AC-III tier. An AC-III tier ticket in other express trains would cost Rs 1,585 against Rs 1,165 now.
Commuters MiD DAY spoke to seemed irked by the hike. Akshay Sane said he mostly travels between Karjat and CST. "Railways should not treat themselves as a profit-making business. Passengers who travel in sleeper class and second class in local trains are from underprivileged families and can't afford such frequent hikes," he said.
"Though, railways are saying that they did not increase fares the last time and this hike is coming after 10 years, ultimately it adversely affects the passengers," said Anil Pathak, a daily commuter.
On the other hand, railway officials and members of railway associations have welcomed the government, saying it was much needed.
"The hike was necessary to meet the requirements of passengers," said Subodh Jain. Rajiv Singhal, Zonal Railway Users Consultative Committee (ZRUCC) member, said, "Raised fares will shield railways from bankruptcy. This was essential for smooth running of the organisation. Otherwise railways will also go the Air India way."
Did you know?
According to the railways, they made losses of Rs 1,059 crore in 2004-05, which increased to Rs 19,964 crore in 2010-11, with an annual rise of 18%