New Delhi: Buoyed by an impressive turn around, Railway minister Lalu Prasad is likely to go in for a nominal reduction in passenger fares and rationalization of freight rates in the “people friendly” Rail budget to be presented in Parliament today.
This will be fourth year in a row that is expected to see Prasad not hiking the passenger fares.
Sources said 26 new projects may be announced in the budget which the Railway minister has said will be “people friendly”.
The Railways’ “major turnaround” in financial and technical performance came in for special mention from President Pratibha Patil in her address to Parliament a day earlier.
While passenger fares may be reduced by 3-5%, freight rates for petroleum, steel and iron ore can come down by 3-4%, sources said.
The reduction is being contemplated as the Railways have managed to cut operational costs while increasing revenue through volume growth, they said.
While freight earnings have risen by 1%, passenger revenue has gone up by 14% during April 2007 to January 2008 providing enough scope to Prasad to go for fare reduction.
The cut in fares is likely to cover all classes while suburban fares may be rationalized.
As far as freight is concerned, Railways would continue with its rationalization policy as observed in the past three budgets.
Railways is also likely to announce some concessional schemes for elders, women, sportspersons and students. There could be some incentives for porters who form a large part of the rail work force and have been demanding Class IV status.
The total plan outlay in the coming Rail Budget is likely to be around Rs36,000 crores while Railways is expected to generate a substantial revenue to meet the growing expenditure through public-private partnership.