Another hike in rail fares on the cards?

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Pawan Kumar Bansal
Chandigarh, Feb 3: Last month when train fares were hiked by nearly 20 per cent across the board, Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal stated that passengers will not be inconvenienced again this year but today he refused to rule out a further hike in the upcoming budget.

Despite specific queries, Bansal refused to clear the doubts which have arisen following speculation in this regard. "I do no’t know. I have no’t said anything so far," he told newspersons here.

In his capacity as the local MP, Bansal inaugurated an exhibition that is being organised by the Khadi and Village Industries Commission. On the occasion, journalists wanted to know if there is even a little truth in reports about another hike in rail fares.

"Some things are being attributed to me," Bansal replied. He asked everyone to "wait for the railway budget." The railway minister stressed that he is "not indicating anything" and hence the media should not "draw any inferences."

Since those travelling by trains have already been paying a higher fare for the past two weeks, Bansal's statement that "Whatever I will have to say from my side, I will present my views in the budget" is not likely to inspire much confidence among the passengers.

About the possibility of his ministry helping the khadi industry, he pointed out that "some things are already there in coaches like blankets etc." Bansal hastened to add that the Railway Board will discuss "what more can be done."

On Jan 9, he had announced the last hike and claimed that mounting losses in passenger segment necessitated it. According to Bansal, the additional revenue accruing from the hike will be used to make rail travel safer. Cleanliness in all trains will also be maintained, he assured.

Opposition parties were critical of the steep increase in fares. "A hike is justified if services are bettered," said BJP leader Prakash Javadekar. He called for better amenities to be provided in trains and accidents to be avoided at all cost.

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