Days after the Congress accused the government of "hiking rail fares", the Indian Railways on Wednesday said that it was levying slightly higher fares for short distance passenger trains only to discourage people from travel which is not most necessary.
In a statement, a Railway Ministry spokesperson said: "Recently, there have been some reports in the section of media about higher price being charged from those travelling in passenger trains over small distances."
He said that railways would like to inform that these "slightly higher fares for passenger and other short distance trains had been introduced to discourage people from avoidable travels and those which are not most necessary" and these fares are fixed at unreserved price of mail or express trains for the same distance.
Noting that Covid-19 is still around and in fact, worsening in some states, the spokesperson said: "Visitors from many states are being subjected to screening in other areas and discouraged to travel. Little higher price is be seen as pro-active measure of railways to prevent crowding in trains and stop Covid from spreading."
The Indian Railways stopped operations of regular service due to the nationwide lockdown imposed on March 22 last year to counter the spread of coronavirus.
The spokesperson said that the national transporter is constantly increasing the number of passenger carrying trains in a graded manner.
He said that during challenging times of Covid-19, Indian Railways has operationalised almost 65 per cent of the mail or express trains and over 90 per cent of suburban services as compared to the pre-lockdown times.
A total of 1,250 mail or express tains, 5,350 suburban services and more than 326 passenger trains are presently in operation average on a daily basis.
"Short distance passenger trains running presently constitute less than 3 per cent of total trains. More such trains are in the pipeline in consultation with the state governments. Such short distance trains require inter state discussions and concurrence of all concerned," he added.
The spokesperson also said that keeping in view the prevailing Covid situation, after introduction of mail or express trains, railways is gradually operationalising passenger trains taking all necessary precautions and making additional efforts.
"Health situation of states, and the views of the state governments need to be taken in into account before getting into normal operations," he said.
He said that railways has taken special care about those travelling by lowest fare in trains so that even in Covid times they bear the least burden.
"In all the trains that are being run, besides other classes, the trains have a large number of 2S class coaches which have the lowest fare in the reserved category. 40 per cent of the passengers have travelled in 2S class in much better travelling conditions than pre Covid unreserved travelling situations," he added.
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