Bangladesh Railway mulls hiking passenger and freight fares to improve services and minimise losses.
As per a preliminary proposal, prices of passenger tickets would go up by more than 25 percent, said railways sources.
However, Mahbubur Rahman, BR director (Traffic and Public Relation), said, “Railway fares will surely be raised but how much has not been fixed yet. It's still being discussed.”
As per the proposal, the fare of Shovon chair on the Dhaka-Chittagong route would be Tk 465 from current Tk 345 while the fare of upper class like AC chair would jump to Tk 1,070 from Tk 656 at present.
On the Dhaka-Khulna route, the fare of Shovon chair would be Tk 630 from Tk 505 while AC chair, which is now Tk 966, would cost Tk 1,443.
The fare of Shovon chair on the Dhaka-Sylhet route would be Tk 435 from current Tk 320 while the fare of AC chair Tk 1,001 from the present Tk 610.
Freight fares will also be increased by 25 percent, as per the proposal.
If implemented, this would the second such hike in fares in three years. In February 2016, the authorities had hiked railway fares by 7.23 percent.
After about 20 years, both passenger and freight fares were raised by 50 percent in October 2012. The intention was to improve services and reduce railway's loss, which was Tk 800 crore a year.
The loss stood Tk 1,531 crore in fiscal 2016-2017.
The BR director, Mahbubur, said the railways ministry has recently formed a committee, led by a joint secretary, to give recommendations on increasing the fares. Replying to a question, he said they would raise the fare in face of increased maintenance costs and salary hike for railway officials.
Besides, Asian Development Bank, which is a big lender for different BR projects, has suggested raising train fares by five percent every year. It is one of the reasons behind the proposed hike, a BR official said.
Besides, a consultancy firm involved in a railway reform project advised to increase fares in line with the operation costs which have risen significantly, he added.
About a preliminary proposal for 25 percent fare hike, Mahbubur, a member of the committee, said, “Nothing has been finalised yet.”
He also did not say when the committee report would be submitted.
Contacted, Ghulam Rahman, president of Consumers Association of Bangladesh, said it would be illegal to increase train fares without improving passenger services.
“Passengers service is not up to the mark and should be improved before hiking train fares,” he told The Daily Star yesterday, adding, “There are many irregularities and corruption in the railway sector. Those should be checked first.”
Thanking the government for taking up many railways projects, he said those should be completed in time.
Atiqur Rahman, project officer of WBB Trust, said it was not possible to make railways profitable by only increasing fares.
The man with more than eight years' experience in the sector said the bus and train fares were almost similar and people might not go for train journeys if the proposed hike is implemented.
He said the BR could increase its earnings by properly using its land, giving importance on its freight service and increasing its number of trips.