Need to depoliticise rail fare hike: Bansal

New Delhi,Business/Economy,Science/Tech, Wed, 21 Nov 2012 IANS

New Delhi, Nov 21 (IANS) Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal was Wednesday evasive when asked whether he would revise passenger fares to boost the financial health of the national transporter. He, however, said that there was need to depoliticise the issue.

"We need to address the issue of fare hike, but there is a need to depoliticise it," Bansal told reporters at his first official press conference since taking charge of the Railways ministry Oct 29.

The ministry was considering setting up a rail tariff regulatory authority, he said, adding that growth in the railway sector would contribute to national GDP by 2 percent.

Despite a limited fare hike in air conditioned class travel in March this year, most of the fare revision announced by former minister Dinesh Trivedi was rolled back by his successor Mukul Roy in order to please his party boss Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee.

Railway finances have been a cause of concern as the transporter has been spending all its revenue on just running the network, leaving little for development projects.

"We are trying to work out some revenue models, including involving private investment," Bansal said.

He said the railways were not in ICU, but were facing tremendous pressure in the form of increasing demand on services. He admitted that there was need to improve the present state of affairs.

"Cleanliness and improving food quality will be taken up first," he said adding that "safety and modernisation were other priorities".

Bansal also said that efforts were being made to ease hassles faced by the passengers who book tickets online, especially through the Tatkal system.

The minister also announced 20 new trains, which were announced in the last two rail budgets.

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