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Rail Budget will spare IInd class

New Delhi, February 8
Continuing the trend of the past few years, the railway budget for 2007-08 may leave the second class train fare unchanged but upper class AC and freight fares may be “rationalised”, an euphemism for an upward revision.

In his fourth consecutive rail budget to be presented on February 27, Railway Minister Lalu Prasad may announce the introduction of dozens of air-conditioned Garib Raths and a major role for private players in the modernisation and development of infrastructure for the railways. “Nobody can think of increasing fares when a huge turnaround is once again in the offing,” a source in Rail Bhavan said.

Sources were of the view that Prasad may continue to follow his ‘mantra’ of not increasing fares but raising “volumes and capacity”. He may rationalise AC fares particularly in the wake of the turnaround and falling petrol prices globally, they said and recalled the reduction in AC first and AC second class fares in the budget for 2006-07.

With regard to the introduction of more Garib Raths, the minister himself has indicated on several occasions that if the four Raths announced in the budget 2006-07 are successful, more such trains linking state capitals would be introduced.

While two Garib Raths, one between Saharsa in Bihar and Amritsar in Punjab and another between Patna and Delhi, were in operation, another two between Delhi and Mumbai and Delhi and Chennai are to be launched before March 31.

Speaking at an infrastructure conference here, Prasad had said a comprehensive scheme involving the investment of Rs 3,00,000 crore in the next five years was being planned, and 40 per cent of the funds are expected to come from public- private partnerships. — PTI

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