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India's train fares likely to rise to generate safety fund

The finance ministry has agreed to provide only 25 per cent and suggested that Railways raise 75 per cent resources itself for the special safety fund. Photograph: (AFP)

New Delhi, Delhi, India Dec 11, 2016, 05.57 AM (IST)

India's train fares are likely to rise in coming days to strengthen its safety system.

The rise in fares will help the government generate funds to build a safety cess. The funds will strengthen track and upgrade signalling system. 

Earlier, railway minister Suresh Prabhu had written a letter to finance minister Arun Jaitley seeking Rs 1,19,183 crore to create the safety cess named Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh.

However, the proposal did not find much favour with Jaitley. He told the Railways -- Indian train service -- to raise 75 per cent of the money on its own by raising its fares.

However, a source close to the railway ministry said the minister was not too keen on raising fares because tickets are already on the higher side. But the finance ministry's "reluctance to provide a bail-out package has left the minister with no option", the unnamed source said.

A final decision on raising fares is yet to be taken as modalities are still being worked out, sources added.

Railways is witnessing train derailments on almost regular basis - two in quick succession in the recent past causing heavy casualties. Experts say these mishaps have taken place due to the lack of upgrading and proper maintenance of track and signalling system.

The basic thrust in the Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh proposal is to go for modern signalling system and elimination of all vulnerable unmanned level crossings to prevent accidents. Since majority of accidents happen at unmanned level crossings it is essential to eliminate those level crossings through construction of road over bridges and under bridges.

Since Railways has decided to increase the average speed of trains, it is important that rail track and rail bridges are also strengthened along with signalling upgrade.

Apart from increasing speed of passenger service, Railways has also decided to run freight trains with 25 tonne axle load for which strengthening of track and rail bridge is essential.

(With inputs from PTI)

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