Ahead of the Lok Sabha election, Railway Minister Mallikarjun Kharge left both passenger and freight charges untouched in his interim Railway Budget for 2014-15 on Wednesday.
Despite a funds crunch, Mr. Kharge’s only thrust toward raising resources rests on 17 new premium trains, named Jai Hind, on as many busy routes, and the hope that the dynamic (demand-based) ticket pricing would yield a higher rate of return. A trial between Delhi and Mumbai yielded 48-per-cent higher revenue per train.
He also limited his announcements to 73 new trains, 24 surveys for new lines and doubling, and bringing two States in the northeast into the rail network. Mr. Kharge corrected account figures for 2010-11 and 2011-12, admitting that they had closed in the red, though under Mamata Banerjee, now West Bengal Chief Minister, they had been in the black.
A call on hiking fares and passenger charges will be taken by the Rail Tariff Authority, to be made functional during 2014-15, and the fuel adjustment component, which has already been put in place to neutralise possible hikes in diesel and electric prices.
To avoid any political controversy, Mr. Kharge kept his vote on account for four months simple, announcing no new projects and focussing on improving connectivity through new trains and lines.
For general passengers, he announced 38 express trains, 10 passenger trains, four MEMUs and three DEMUs, while three trains have been extended and the frequency of three others increased.