Soon after assuming office, Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal indicated railway fares would have to be increased.
Interacting with the media on Monday after taking charge of the crucial infrastructure ministry, Bansal said hiking fares was essential for better services. "We have to ensure the vast infrastructure of the railways does not collapse and stop functioning. So, we have to increase fares and assure the public that if there will be any hike, the public will also appreciate it because we are going to improve the services," Bansal said.
The new minister of state for railways, Adhir Ranjan Choudhury, also favoured an increase in passenger fares.
Bansal is the sixth minister in a little over three years to assume charge of the railways, which is currently passing through one of its toughest periods, as funds earmarked for many of the ongoing projects are being curtailed.
PM Manmohan Singh had taken charge of the ministry for a brief period after Mamata Banerjee left for the West Bengal chief ministership in May 2011. Trinamool Congress' Dinesh Trivedi took charge after that. But, he was replaced by his party colleague Mukul Roy after he drew Mamata's wrath for increasing fares in this year's Railway Budget. Later, after the Trinamool Congress withdrew support to UPA in September, triggering Roy's exit, Road Transport and Highways Minister C P Joshi was given additional charge of the railway ministry.
Bansal said work on the dedicated freight corridor (DFC) would be expedited. "We've to expeditiously work on DFC, as it will benefit people. All the regions will get their due from the railways," he said.
Six years have passed since the Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation was set up in 2006-07 and no contract has been awarded to private players for the construction of the corridor yet.
The new minister also assured that the ticket reservation system would be improved.