Rail Budget 2016: Will Mumbai see a fare hike in rail tickets?

Will Mumbai see a fare hike in rail tickets? Sources said that even though the probability of a full fledged hike – across all forms of trains long distance and suburban line – might not happen there are chances that the surcharge on Mumbai Urban Transport Project (MUTP) could be increased. It is not just the low cost of travelling that the suburban rail provides to nearly 80 lakh Mumbaikars but also the fact that the latest addition to MUTP projects is the costliest until now.

The MUTP-4, according to the railway officials here are just another name of the basket given where two or more projects can be added. And this time they are namely looking at Virar-Vasai-Diva-Panvel suburban line that is expected to cost a mammoth Rs 9000 crore (approx) and the Communication Based Train Control (CBTC) that is another Rs 4500 crore which will be part of the new package under MUTP-4.

Under the MUTP project scheme, World Bank provides loan to the Government while the rest is shared equally between the Indian Railways and the Maharashtra government. Presently Mumbaikars are paying surcharge on the same to repay the loan taken from the World Bank. Its calculation is such that right from year 2003, an additional surcharge of 8 percent was to be levied on the fares back then and this was to double in 2008 which didn’t happen.

Finally in 2012 the three times surcharge for paying WB loan was levied, for which people are paying even now that is expected to go till 2030. “For MUTP-3 we are looking at 75 percent loan to be taken from World Bank. So this would require a hike in surcharge on rail tickets otherwise its difficult to repay the loan,” explained a senior railway official.

Officials said that the fare hike in railway tickets including the surcharge has been quite inconsistent. Couple of years back when Dinesh Trivedi was the railway minister, the fare hike was rolled back after public pressure. At present the losses of Central and Western Railways are mounting considerably as it’s a loss for running every train.

Apart from this, there is also the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST)-Panvel fast corridor on the Harbour line, which is another Rs 10000 crore or more. This, the sources said that as of now it is not part of the MUTP projects yet and that there is disagreement between the state government and the Indian Railways on its financing part. At present the state government and Indian Railways are blocking horns over funding this Rs 10000 crore project that would help the Harbour line tremendously. Sources said that the railways have asked Maharashtra government to bear 50 percent of the funds while the other half Indian Railways would bear; which could be partly funded with help of World Bank or any other financial institution.

On the other hand the Niti Aayog has given in-principal approval for MUTP-3 wherein projects of Airoli-Kalwa elevated line, Karjat-Kalyan doubling and Virar-Dahanu quadrupling have been proposed that altogether costs Rs 10000 crore. It was announced in last year’s rail budget but then put forward for study by Niti Aayog (alternate for erstwhile Planning Commission).

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