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2% cut in all fares
Freight same. On track: 43 more trains. Many speeded up.
Girja Shankar Kaura
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 13
Shying away from presenting a populist budget just before the next round of general elections in the country, Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav today, however, lived up to his promise of easing the common man’s burden and announced an across the board two per cent cut in rail fares.

Presenting Railway Budget, his sixth in succession, for the new fiscal, Lalu also made an announcement for introducing 43 new trains, extension of 14 and an increase in the frequency of 14 others, apart from earmarking a higher plan outlay of Rs 37,905 crore towards expansion in the next fiscal year.

He also announced reduction in the fares of ordinary passenger trains by Re one for ticket costing up to Rs 50 for journey above 10 km. “I take great pride in announcing that in its journey of service to the nation the Indian Railways has reached an important milestone,” said Lalu, while presenting the budget. “I can proudly say that Railways has scaled a new pinnacle and now it stands at the zenith of success from where, without imposing any burden on the common man, the organisation is set to establish the historic landmark of earning a cash surplus before dividend of more than Rs 90,000 crore in five years.”

The Railway Minister also left the freight rates unchanged to keep traffic from shifting to road transport that has become cheaper following cut in diesel prices. The Minister said that a number of steps had been taken to increase freight revenue. These include transporting double-stack containers on the electrified Western Dedicated Freight Corridor, and improving wagon design to increase capacity of goods rakes by 78 percent. Construction of Eastern Freight Corridor had also commenced, he said, while adding that the average annual growth rate of freight loading increased from around three percent in the last decade to about eight percent.

Prasad said respecting the aspirations of the long distance passengers he has decided to reduce the second class and sleeper class fares of all mail and express and ordinary passenger trains by two per cent for the ticket costing more than Rs 50. He said during the last four years, he had reduced the fares of AC first class by 28 per cent and AC II tier by 20 per cent. The Indian Railways are the second largest railroad in the world under a single management, running more than 11,000 trains every day, 7,000 of which are for passengers.

The network comprises 108,706 km and ferries 14 million passengers daily from 6,853 stations across the length and breadth of the country. “Earlier, at the time of the railway budget, people used to be apprehensive about the possible increase in passenger fares; now, on the other hand on the eve of my budget, people appear not only hopeful but sanguine about the likely reduction in passenger fares,” claimed Lalu. The Railway Minister also announced four more “Garib Raths” - low-cost AC trains. Notably, 604 new trains have been introduced in Lalu’s tenure. Even as air travel is reflecting reduction in number of passengers due to economic downturn, there has been a significant increase in the number of rail passengers. Admitting that the slowdown has affected freight loading, Lalu said things would gradually improve.

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