New Delhi, Oct 8: Short of money to fund its safety and modernisation needs, the railways will soon set up a Rail Tariff Authority, which will suggest whether or not to hike passenger fares and freight, Railway Minister C.P. Joshi said Monday.
“We have decided to constitute the Rail Tariff Authority,” he told reporters at the Economic Editors’ conference here.
Joshi said the decision was taken after deliberating on the reports of two expert panels headed by Atomic Energy Commission’s former chief Anil Kakodkar and prime minister’s adviser Sam Pitroda, which had projected requirement of over Rs 1 lakh crore over the next five years.
Railway Board chairman Vinay Mittal said the authority will insulate the railways from the hike in fuel prices and high running cost. “We have not raised passenger fares in the past decade,” he noted.
The railways is spending almost all of its earnings on just running the network and desperately needs huge funds for a makeover.
In March, former railway minister Dinesh Trivedi had to go as he annoyed his Trinamool Congress boss Mamata Banerjee by hiking passenger fares.
His party colleague and successor Mukul Roy partially rolled back the fares which has resulted in a loss of around Rs.4,000 crore for the cash-strapped national transporter.
Stating safety and passenger amenities were top priority, Joshi said he would “try to strike a balance between the constraints and the expectations of the people”.
Observing he was new to the railway ministry and in the process of understanding it, Joshi listed the proposed Mumbai elevated rail corridor for suburban passengers, seven high speed train corridors under study and monitoring of the Dedicated Freight Corridor as his priority areas.