The Railway Regulatory Authority is likley to be rechristened as Railway Development Authority and would undertake various developmental activities besides fixing freight rates and passenger fares. An independent rail regulator has been recommended by most committees that have looked into railway reforms for over a decade.
Finally, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu has set the ball rolling to turn it into reality and has suggested that the
regulator’s functions should include laying down the framework for monitoring of passenger and freight tariffs, Public Private Partnership projects and efficiency.
There is a proposal to change the nomenclature from Railway Regulatory Authority to Railway Development Authority and make it broadbased, a senior Railway Ministry official said.
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The setting up of the authority is crucial for attracting private investment in railways as to ensure fair play for entities.
The railways will seek suggestions from all stakeholders, including the public, on constitution as well as broadbasing the functioning of the authority.
The official said the draft of regulatory authority is ready and it will be circulated soon to seek views from all concerned.
Though the task of suggesting freight and passenger fares will remain to be vested in the authority, there will be additional responsibilities as well, he added.
At present, fixing tariffs is the Railway Board’s job. Historically, political dispensations have prevailed over the Board to stall moves for tariff revision fearing political backlash.
As per the plan, public transporter will constitute the authority as an independent body, to decide passenger fares and freight rate, as a shift of regulatory responsibility from the government to an independent regulator is required to attract private sector investments.
“Besides fixing fares, it will also have efficiency parameters. The finalised draft will be tabled in Parliament to get lawmakers approval,” he said. Indian Railway is currently under strain because of lack of investment in critical areas and a decline in passenger bookings.
Besides, the 7th Pay Commission recommendations has also added a significant burden on its finances. Railways will seek the help of Finance Ministry to address the issue of pay panel burden.