Railway authorities see hike in fares as means to ensure the survival of AC rakes
Mumbaikars' wait for air-conditioned coaches in local trains just got longer and dearer. In as far back as January, Railway minister Suresh Prabhu had announced the testing of the first air-conditioned coach in a local train on March 31, but sadly, authorities have already missed the deadline. What’s more, railway authorities have now questioned the cost of procuring AC rakes, pointing out that this may lead to a hike in fares to ensure its survival in the Mumbai suburban system. The news comes at a bad time, when the city’s residents are already grappling with a hike in the cost of first-class tickets, due to an increase in service tax.
According to sources, procuring an AC coach similar to that of the Metro rail involves having the latest technology — such as automatic door systems and vestibule coaches — in place and that the cost can go as high as R8-10 crore per coach. Under the current system, a normal 12-car rake costs Rs 43 crore.
Railway officials have said after the trial of one of the AC coaches, they will place an order for at least 12 AC rakes, which will be worked on by The Integral Coach Factory in Chennai. “AC trains will become a need in the future. In the long run, the estimated cost of replacing the existing coaches with AC rakes will be well over R15,000 crore,” said a senior rail official on condition of anonymity.
The Railway Board has approved the layout and other technicalities of the AC train plan.