Train fares likely to go up by 25-35pc

Railway authorities are planning to increase passenger fare by approximately 25 to 35 percent, said officials. Sources concerned said the goods fares would also be increased. Train fares were increased four years ago for the last time. Railways minister Nurul Islam Sujon told the media on Tuesday that train fares would be increased aiming to improve the quality of services of Bangladesh Railway.

A committee is now working on the proposals to increase fares, the minister said, adding that the committee is yet to submit its report to us and the final rates of fares will be revealed once the report is submitted. The committee head railways ministry additional secretary Pronab Kumar Ghosh said that they had verbally requested the ministry to give them one more month to submit their recommendations.

In February 2016, the government increased train fares by 7.23 per cent on an average and in October 2012 the fare was increased by 50 per cent to 115 per cent promising improved services. After increasing fares twice in recent times, the services of railway are still inadequate in cases of schedules and numbers of trains, uncomfortable stations and platforms, lack of security, poor parcel and goods services, and huge number of fatal accidents at unguarded and unauthorised level-crossings.

In 2016, railway formed the permanent tariff measure guideline under Asian Development Bank’s condition to increase train fare every year by adjusting railway’s operating expenditures and earnings. It was one of the major ADB conditions for allocating its grants to railway projects. One of the committee members told New Age, seeking anonymity, fares of Sulov, Shovon, Shovon chair, first class (non-air-conditioned), first berth (non-air-conditioned), mail and commuter trains would increase less comparing with the fares of Snigdha (AC chair), AC seat and berth.

‘There will be maximum 25 per cent increase in the fares of lower classes and it will be maximum 30 to 35 per cent for upper classes,’ he added. Failure in train schedules becomes one of the major problems for railway in 2019 especially on northern and south-western routes of the country as the railways authorities introduced four new trains on these routes.

Almost all trains on the country’s northern and south-western routes to the capital are now late due to single line track on the Bangabandhu Bridge over river Jamuna and single line track on Ishwardi-Joydebpur section. Schedules on these routes would not be improved before 2024 when the construction of the dedicated second Bangabandhu Railway Bridge and double line on Ishwardi-Joydebpur section would be completed, said the minister.

At least 39 people were killed and 155 were injured in 129 railways accidents in 2019, according to railway. The records of Accident Research Institute show that 239 people died and 470 others were injured in 217 level-crossing accidents between January 1 and December 22, 2019. There are 2,497 level-crossings and 43 per cent of them are unauthorised and 38 per cent unguarded.

The railways ministry formed the committee to prepare a proposal for increasing fares in 2019. In March 2019, the committee in a draft proposed increasing passenger fares by 25 per cent on an average considering fuel costs but on March 18, 2019 at a contract signing ceremony at Rail Bhaban in the capital Nurul Islam Sujon said that no decision was made about fare hike.

‘This work is very complex and we have to evaluate different issues like bus fares before making some proposals,’ said the committee head Pronab Kumar Ghosh, adding that they would submit more than one proposal to the ministry. According to the committee members, the ministry would send the proposals to the prime minister for getting final nod.

Another member of the committee, seeking anonymity, also said that they were preparing proposals on their own, not at the recommendations of the Asian Development Bank. They had fixed new distance slab for fixing fares as new trains introduced recently on Panchagarh-Dhaka route. He said that the fare system of railway was based on telescoping rate in which fares decrease at higher distances. However the fares would be lesser than bus fares, he added. The longest route of Bangladesh Railway was less than 400 kilometres earlier but now it became 593 kilometres.