Political pressure is mounting on the Railways to roll back the fare hike, especially for local trains, notably in Mumbai, where the BJP ally, Shiv Sena has openly criticised the government for the revision of fares.
While no written representation has come to the Railway Minister, sources said a senior Shiv Sena MP spoke to Railway Minister Sadananda Gowda over phone in Bangalore urging him to reconsider the decision. The Shiv Sena has also made its displeasure known through an editorial in its mouthpiece Saamna.
A delegation of BJP and Shiv Sena MPs from Maharashtra is going to meet Gowda on Tuesday and formally demand a rollback.
The top brass of Railway Board and executives of relevant directorates went into a huddle on Monday and it has been communicated to the minister’s office that rolling back the fares would be counterproductive.
Gowda will be back in Delhi on Tuesday and a top level meeting is scheduled to be held to discuss the matter. Sources said Railways had a meeting with the Finance ministry on the Interim Budget, wherein this hike was incorporated.
Calculations prepared for the minister by the top brass shows that suburban traffic contributes only Rs 2,000 crore of the total earnings from passenger services even though 53 per cent of the travelling public in railways uses them. The remaining Rs 35,500 crore comes from the 47 per cent of the passengers using non-suburban trains.
From the newly-decided 100 per cent increase in the cost of the Monthly Seasonal Ticket, Railways will earn Rs 902 crore. But even that will only take the share of suburban earnings to just about six per cent of the total earnings from the passenger segment.
In Mumbai alone, both Central and Western Railways combined suffer a loss of Rs 4 crore per day in the suburban service.
The Traffic Commercial directorate presented comparisons with the cost of monthly ticket of the BEST buses, which cost 10 per cent less than its local train counterpart. “One thing that has to be understood by the political dispensation is that despite raising the fares of the season ticket, the subsidy in terms of trips is still 50 per cent,” said a senior Ministry official who has been part of the meetings.
It is learnt that Gowda is not in favour of a rollback himself, but might yield to pressures from his party if the top brass buckles before the crucial ally in Maharashtra which is going to polls in December this year with the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance as favourites to form the next government there.
“It is important to understand that we do not mean to earn any profits from raising the fares. The hike is on account of increased input costs and the widening gap of cross subsidy from non-suburban to suburban,” said the official.