Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal on Friday made it clear that there will be no further hike in the near future in reservation or cancellation charges, though cross subsidy from freight to passenger segment has touched Rs 25,000 crore (Rs 250 billion).
He also pressed for bringing down the operating ratio (amount spent to earn every Rs 100) from the current level of 88.8 per cent to 80 per cent by bringing efficiency in resource utilisation and for expansion of railway services, including infrastructure.
Replying to the debate in Rajya Sabha on Railway Budget 2013-14, he justified the hike in the fares effected on January 21 and said it was "inevitable" as it had come after 12 years.
"People have largely accepted the hike", he said urging members to accept it as the need of the hour.
His speech was disrupted by Opposition parties, including Trinamool Congress with party leader Derek O'Brien staging a walk out after accusing the minister of giving a short shrift to the demands of better rail connectivity in the Jungalmahal area in West Bengal.
"UPA does not do any kind of discrimination against any state," the minister asserted.
"I was accused of raising the fares through backdoor and was criticised for it.
"But I want to say that it was a minimum fare hike.
"They accuse me of raising the fare by 25 per cent.
"This is, however, a marginal hike as in real terms it is only a hike of Rs 2 for a person travelling up to 100 km.
"The bus fare has in the meantime gone up several folds," he said.
Bansal also it clear that "we are not raising (the fare) any more", despite pressure on Railways due to the hike in diesel prices, which had wiped out its net additional gain by Rs 3300 crore (Rs 33 billion).
He said the cross subsidy has touched Rs 25,000 crore (Rs 250 billion) in the passenger segment.
Referring to the recent hike in reservation and cancellation charges, he said it was necessary to deter the touts as they were selling tickets of Rs 500 at Rs 1500.
He spoke about setting up of a Rail Tariff Authority to suggest fare revision in freight and passenger fares, subject to Parliament approval.
The House later approved the budget.