The fare hike announced by railway minister PK Bansal on Wednesday left Mumbai’s railway officials scratching their heads. The city’s suburban train fares, which are now a mix of various charges like development charges and MUTP (Mumbai Urban Transport Project) surcharge, have thrown in front of them a mathematical nightmare.
One of the prime reasons for their dilemma was a note which said that the railway ministry has proposed to do away with the development charge that gets levied on every train ticket across the country. The abolition of development charges and rounding off the fares to multiples of Rs5 would give rise to a situation where, in many cases, the ticket prices would go down after the fare hike.
In Mumbai, a development charge of Re1 is levied on a single journey second class ticket, and Rs20 on a single journey first class ticket. In every season pass, this development charge becomes Rs10 for the second class season pass, and Rs20 for the first class season pass.
If this charge is abolished, for example, the price of a Churchgate to Borivli ticket would go down from Rs11 to Rs10. Similarly, the price of a Churchgate to Virar ticket would go down from Rs16 to Rs15. Moreover, the price of a single journey first class ticket from Churchgate to Virar would remain unchanged, despite the hike.
“The development charge is a huge chunk of any ticket. If it is removed, then we are left with prices that are actually less than the ones we are currently paying. However, the decrease is prominent in season passes, so we can see people shifting to season passes, which is always a good sign for the railways,” said an official.
Another problem suburban railway authorities are facing is the fare hike, which has been calculated as per every kilometre travelled.
“In Mumbai, there are more than 100 stations, several of them at a distance of a kilometre from each other. For our convenience, suburban stations are divided into different distance slabs. As per this fare hike, we would have to print different tickets for stations that are next to each other, which will be an accounting nightmare. Plus, it will lead to longer ticket queues, inviting public ire as well,” said the official.
However, in what could be seen as a good sign, the fight for loose change at the counter will decrease, as the railways have decided to round off the ticket rates to multiples of five.
“There is a lack of clarity in this case. We will be in a better to position to talk about this rounding off issue only once the official fare hike circular reaches us. Rounding off to multiples of Rs5 will help people, as Rs5 coins and Rs10 notes are more widely available than other coin and note denominations,” said another official.
The revised fares will be applicable from January 22 onwards.