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Derailing The Middle Class

Indian railways’ decision to introduce flexi fares has not gone down well with passengers. People who regularly travel in Rajdhani, Shatabdi and Duronto — trains in which the scheme is already in effect are complaining of being cheated

Photo Credit : Ritesh Sharma

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Indian railways’ decision to introduce flexi fares has not gone down well with passengers. People who regularly travel in Rajdhani, Shatabdi and Duronto — trains in which the scheme is already in effect are complaining of being cheated.

Sudhir Kumar, a job consultant and a regular passenger on the New Delhi-Kolkata route says, “I used to pay around Rs 2,300 for tatkal tickets before the new scheme came into effect. Now I am charged more than Rs 3,000 for the same.” Same is the case with trains like Shatabdi express that inter connect nearby cities.

In the first week of the scheme, the average price of one-way ticket for Kalka Shatabdi ranged between Rs 750 and Rs 900; whereas, the same ticket had cost around Rs 620 before the system was introduced. During the same week, tickets for the Chandigarh-New Delhi Shatabdi were sold between Rs 880 and Rs 1,110, as reported by Hindustan Times.

People for whom trains are still the best mode of commuting are finding it difficult to cope with the new rates. Pradhanya Wasnik, a marketing executive, says, “I travel a lot between Delhi and Chandigarh and most of my trips are last minute plans. Now it has become difficult to plan an instant trip as the tickets are so highly-priced.”

Under the new system, the base fare increases 10 per cent with every 10 per cent of berths sold. It is anticipated that about 60 per cent of berths on 142 premium trains, where the scheme is in effect, will be sold at 1.5 times their original price.

The lowest pricing or the current fare is applicable on only about 10 per cent seats. Thirty per cent seats that are set aside for tatkal bookings will also have to pay 1.5 times of the original price. The highest cost of tickets in many trains is higher than regular air flights. A comparison shows that for Delhi to Mumbai air travel, the lowest airfare is in the range of Rs 2,755, while the surged price for second-AC is around Rs 4,104, a 42 per cent rise from the current train fares.

Jayshree Gupta, a Delhi-based housemaker says everything has become expensive in the last one year. “I have no problem paying the exaggerated amount if I receive additional facilities. But the truth is, things have gone from bad to worse in tier-III class.”

Unfortunately, what Gupta says about the quality of services provided by the Indian Railways is true not only in tier III but all the classes. While the pathetic levels of hygiene in trains and railways stations have been consistent, the quality of food provided by IRCTC has fallen drastically in the recent past. The best that train passengers get are cold chapattis, dal and rice served with poorly cooked paneer. In other areas too, Indian Railways is lagging. Wifi facility, which was touted by the government, to change the face of Indian trains, still remains inaccessible.