Along the lines of the fee charged to travellers by airport operators, now the proposal is being mulled to charge AC class railway passengers a user development fee for upgrading railway stations. The fee amount proposed as user development fee will be Rs.10 for AC and chair car tickets that are priced over Rs. 500 per travel.
However, as only a small population travels in AC compartment of Indian railways, the proposal that is currently being drafted if goes through will include only a small section of railway passengers. Further, the proposed fee will enable Indian Railways to secure funds for maintaining and upgrading railway stations and provides at par with airports.
"We plan to charge a small amount between Rs5 and Rs10 on AC class and chair car tickets and those which cost above Rs500. As stations are introducing facilities like escalators and beautifying railway stations, we would need money to maintain them", a leading business daily quoted a government official as saying.
This levy of user development fee is well in line with the Indian railways' station redevelopment programme with an investment of $1 trillion. Initially, the government announced to modernize as many as 400 stations but later increased the number to 600. As part of the redevelopment, railway stations will be made more passenger-friendly with incorporation of new lifts, escalators and shopping complexes. In addition, the beautification of railways stations is also on the offing and it is quiet eminent at few of the Indian railways stations.
It is to be noted that the Indian Railways is drawing up such a proposal even as the regulator or authority to monitor the functioning of the entity is still not in place even after the Cabinet's go-ahead in April 2017. The authority would be given the following 4 prime tasks that include tariff determination, ensuring fair play and a level playing field for stakeholder investments, setting efficiency and performance standards and dissemination of information.
And given the fact that fares cannot be revised unless the authority is in place, charging a user development fee from train passengers is deemed as a more viable option.