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Cut in passenger fares unlikely in rail budget next month: minister

Reduction in passenger fares is unlikely in the ensuing railway budget for 2015-16 despite sharp fall in diesel price, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu hinted on Thursday.

“We recover only 50 percent of the passenger cost from the fares, in which there is already a huge element of subsidy, benefitting them (passengers),” Prabhu told reporters on the margins of a railway function. Prabhu will present his maiden railway budget next month.

With the international crude prices falling by over 50 percent since June last year, the state-run oil marketing firms had cumulatively reduced diesel price by Rs.10-11 in six cuts since October, benefitting bulk consumers like the railways, which use diesel to power its locomotive engines.

As the cash-strapped railways bear 50 percent of the subsidy on fares, Prabhu hinted that passing on the benefit of lower diesel price to passengers was unlikely due to resource constraints.

Noting that there was a misconception about high-speed trains in the country, the minister said the railways was focusing on increasing the average speed of all passenger and freight trains.

“We are making efforts to redefine high-speed trains because express trains have too many stops enroute, resulting in their average speed coming down,” Prabhu said after flagging off four new trains from Bengaluru to Katra in Jammu and Kashmir, Patna, Tatanagar in Jharkhand and Kamakhya in Assam at the city station.

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