A scene from the ticket booking counter at Thiruvananthapuram Central railway station on Wednesday. There was shortage of small denomination notes at the counters and passengers who tried to pay with the demonitised Rs.500 and Rs.1,000 notes for tickets were asked to wait till change came, leading to delays and, in some cases, missing the train.
The Railways may bring back a cess on tickets to finance its proposed Rs.1 lakh crore Rail Safety Fund after a rise in derailments this year.
The Railways had asked the Finance Ministry to sponsor almost 93 per cent of the fund. However, the Finance Ministry agreed to contribute only 25 per cent and asked it to raise the rest.
“In 2001-2007, a Special Railway Safety Fund of Rs.17,000 crore was created. The Railways raised Rs.5,000 crore through safety surcharge on passenger fare and the remaining Rs.12,000 crore came from the Finance Ministry. We are thinking on the same lines again,” said a senior Railway Ministry official, on condition of anonymity.
The 2001 move was based on recommendations of the Railway Safety Review Committee.
The fund was also meant for improving safety of rolling stock, upgrading training facilities, and simulators for locomotive drivers, among other things. During 2001-2007, the Railways levied a fee of Rs.1 for second class ordinary trains and Rs.2 for second class Mail or Express trains per person. For other classes, the surcharge had ranged between Rs.10 and Rs.100 depending on the class and distance of journey.
Recently, the Railway Ministry requested the Finance Ministry to create a non-lapsable safety fund named ‘Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh’ worth Rs.1,19,183 crore. It asked the Finance Ministry to provide Rs.1,11,683 crore for safety improvement. However, despite multiple requests, it only agreed to give 25 percent of the amount, Railway Ministry sources said.
The fund is proposed to be utilised for track improvement, bridge rehabilitation, rolling stock replacement, human resource development, improved inspection system, and safety work at level crossing, among other things.
Two major accidents
Within the last one month, the Railways have suffered two major accidents due to derailment. In November, the Patna-bound Indore-Rajendranagar Express went off the rails near Pukhrayan in Uttar Pradesh killing more than 145 persons. On Wednesday, the Ajmer-Sealdah Express got derailed near rural Kanpur causing injuries to over 60 passengers. Rail fracture is seen as the prima facie cause behind both the accidents.
Although the number of train accidents have reduced from 107 in 2015-16 to 87 till December 27 this year, derailments have gone up to 68 this fiscal year from 51 in the previous one.
Source - The Hindu