Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu will unveil his first Budget on Thursday and a lot of suggestions from the Prime Minister’s office have been incorporated in the Budget, said sources, adding that its focus will be on attracting investment, modernisation of trains through Wifi and transparency in railway systems.
While a fare hike is unlikely across the board, acess for cleanliness cannot be ruled out. Prabhu is likely to unravel his grand plans of how to decrease the cross-subsidy for passenger service from freight earnings which is touching Rs 24,000 crore and the steps to increase goods transportation share in the national transporter with or without hiking fares.
For 10 years before 2012-13 there was no increase in rail fares. Then Railway Minister and Trinamool Congress leader Dinesh Trivedi had made an across-the-board hike in 2012-2013 but was made to roll back the hike in second and sleeper class categories. Since then there have been hikes in passenger fares.
Before the first Railway budget of the Modi government in July last, fares were increased by 14.2 percent and freight rates by 6.5 percent.
Though there is a decrease in diesel price, electricity cost has gone up by over four percent making it a balancing act for the fuel adjustment cost (FAC)-lnked tariff revision policy adopted by railways since 2013.
Currently there are 676 projects worth Rs 1,57,883 crore sanctioned and out of these, only 317 projects could be completed and 359 projects remain to be completed which will now require as much as Rs 1,82,000 crore.
Considered a reformer, Prabhu may lay the road map for attracting private investment for the public transporter, which badly needs funds for completion of many crucial rail projects. Given the funds constraints, he is likely to go slow in announcing new trains and projects in the budget.
Funds allocation will be made only for those projects including new lines which are strategically crucial, doubling and route electrification which are nearing completion, the sources said.