Fare hike for Mumbai locals rolled back

Written By Unknown on Rabu, 25 Juni 2014 | 22.23

MUMBAI/ NEW DELHI: In a massive relief for lakhs of Mumbai's suburban railway commuters, the Modi government on Tuesday announced a partial rollback of the unprecedented rail fare hike. Besides not hiking second-class daily ticket fares up to 80km, first-class daily tickets and first- and second-class season tickets will now be increased by a flat 14.2%. The unprecedented hike announced on June 20, ranging between 100% and 187%, had drawn a barrage of criticism from over 75 lakh Mumbaikars who commute by local trains.

The new fares will be effective starting Saturday.

The rollback was announced by the Railway Board after a delegation of BJP and Shiv Sena MPs from Mumbai met railway minister Sadanand Gowda in the capital urging him to cancel the hike. With Maharashtra set to go to the polls in October, the Centre took note of their criticism that the increase was too steep.

TOI was the first to report on Tuesday that the Centre was likely to do a rethink on the hike announced last Friday.

The increase of 100%—in some cases, nearly 200%—had generated widespread anger among Mumbaikars and led to a huge rush to buy season tickets before the new fares kicked in. The Railways had decided to tweak the formula for computing the season ticket fare, saying the monthly fare would, from now on, be charged on the basis of 30 single journeys instead of the earlier 15-journeys formula.

With the rollback, this revised formula stands discarded, a senior official from the Central Railway's commercial department said. However, the increase of 14.2% in passenger fares for long-distance travel and 6.5% in freight services remains unchanged and would be effective from Tuesday night.

The Railways were initially hoping to garner around Rs 9,200 crore from the fare hike. The rollback comes as a setback for the department, officials said, as the major loss in the passenger segment is due to highly subsidized fares in the suburban sector. This sector constitutes 52% of total passenger traffic but generates only 6% revenue.

But it is a major reprieve for Mumbai's commuters; for them, a 14.2% increase places minimal burden on their budgets.

For example, the second-class season ticket fare between Churchgate to Borivli on the Western line and CST to Thane on the Central line could now be Rs 270 as against the earlier 190, and a first-class season ticket on the same two stretches may cost Rs 750 per month instead of Rs 655.

First-class daily fares will change, but here too the increase will not be unbearable. A WR official said, "The first-class fare will increase by a minimum of Rs 5 and a maximum of Rs 30 on the 120km stretch between Churchgate and Dahanu."

The minimum first-class fare will be Rs 50 as against Rs 45. The fare between Churchgate and Andheri is likely to go up from Rs 90 to Rs 105. On the Central line, the first-class fare between CST and Thane could be Rs 140 as against Rs 120, and on the Harbour network, the CST-to-Panvel fare is set to be Rs 165 instead of the earlier Rs 145.

Some commuters, though, criticized the government, saying the rollback should have come before they had bought new passes to beat the hike.

Ramesh Joshi, a Matunga resident, said, "I bought the CST-to-Thane first-class annual ticket worth Rs 5,400 in the morning as the railways had announced that the monthly fare would increase from Rs 500 to Rs 1,310 from June 25. I feel cheated now because there were still 25 days to go for expiry of my existing pass."

Another commuter, Aarti Naik, said, "I had to skip work because I had to stand in queue to buy the season ticket pass to evade the hike."

A Railway official however said an opportunity to bring in reforms had been lost, and populism had won again. "The CR suburban system suffers a loss of Rs 2 crore per day. How do commuters expect us to provide decent services when we are bleeding in this manner," a CR official said.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/followceleb.cms?alias=Mumbai's suburban railway commuters,Mumbai locals,fare hike,Modi Government,Railway Board

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