Lamenting that railways has "limited resources", Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal today justified the recent hike in fares and charges and said the cancellation fees needed to be increased in a phased manner to keep touts at bay.
Bansal also invited investments from corporates to improve amenities at railway stations.
Replying to a debate on the Rail Budget 2013-14 in the Lok Sabha amid a walkout by Opposition parties, Bansal said his Ministry would focus on spending "limited resources" on rail safety and better services during the year and modernise stations through corporate help.
The railways would require Rs 10 lakh crore for maintenance of rolling stock and upgradation of rail infrastructure and safety requirements.
The budget and the Demand for Grants were passed by voice vote, after Opposition parties, including the BJP, Left, JD-U, Shiv Sena, AIADMK, Trinamool Congress and BJD, walked out accusing the Minister of focussing only on Congress-ruled states and ignoring the others.
Referring to the problem of touts, he said ticket bookings are open for 120 days and these touts buy the tickets in bulk and sell them for 119 days and return the unsold ones on the last day paying "minimal" cancellation charges.
"Therefore, is it not necessary that gradually the cancellation charges are increased so that these people (touts) are kept out and only bonafide passengers get tickets which are not costly," Bansal asked.
"Later a situation could be created when these cancellation charges could be gradually brought down. But such a situation has to be created first," he said.
The Rail Budget, presented in the House on February 26, made an upward revision of reservation fee and supplementary charge for superfast trains that will mean an increase ranging from Rs 5 on the second class to Rs 25 on AC 1st and Executive Class. Freight charges were also hiked by 5.8 per cent.
Referring to hike in fares and freight charges, Bansal said these steps were taken to maintain the rolling stock and generate revenue in line with recommendations of the Kakodkar and Pitroda committees and the Planning Commission.