New Delhi: The differences between the ministries of Finance and Railways seem to have widened on the passenger fare hike. While the Ministry of Railway is in favour of raising the fares of the higher class, the Finance Ministry wants to hike the fares for sleeper and general classes as well.

According to sources, the Secretary, Ministry of Finance, R Gopalan, had written a letter to the Chairman, Railway Board, Vinay Mittal, seeking additional resources for which a balance is required between the expenses and the earnings. The Ministry has been asked to consider hiking the fares especially of general and sleeper classes which have not been revised since a long time while 90 per cent of income comes from these categories.

Due to the Sixth Pay Commission recommendations, the Railways have been burdened with an additional expenditure of Rs 73,000 crores with pension liability and rising fuel costs, affecting the operating ratio which has become 93 percent. Therefore to reduce the dependence on Union budget, the Railways must increase its capacity to generate resources on its own, the letter stated.

Since the Ministry has no money to expand its capacity, it is also facing difficulties in paying dividends, he added.

Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi is in favour of raising the fares of higher class only because the former Railway Minister and Trinamool Chief Mamata Banerjee avoided it during her tenure and had even introduced the facility of free passes to poor in general class.

Moreover, the Railway unions are also in favour of hiking fares as they do not want to meet the same fate of Air India.

The general expenditure of the railways has increased from Rs 41,033 crores to Rs 73,650 crores in last last five years, whereas its expenses on pension have also increased from Rs 7,973 crores to Rs 16,000 crores.

(JPN/Bureau)