Ritu Raj/ Zee Research Group/ Delhi
Indian Railway has quietly but surely set itself on the course of completely market driven tariffs on select busy routes and none seems to be complaining!
Titled appropriately as “Premium Trains”, the service has only expanded with the change of guard at Rail Bhawan. The service operates across popular tracks with minimal stops charging dynamic tariffs.
The facility of Premium Trains was launched on December 24, 2013 with Indian Railways seeing this unique project as a means to wealthy dividends. Indian Railways experimented with dynamic fares based on the airlines model by operating AC special trains connecting Delhi and Mumbai with costlier tickets to meet the high demands during the festive flavour of Christmas and New Year.
At that time, railways had sold one-way AC III-tier tickets up to Rs 12,000 apiece and AC II-Tier ones at up to Rs 17,000, which was six to seven times higher than the Rajdhani Express fare. Railway management then said that it was planning to run trains on 37 more routes where even the waitlisted quota had been breached during the festival season.
While presenting his first rail budget for FY 2014-15, Union Railways Minister D V Sadananda Gowda on July 8, 2014 announced several new trains, the most eye-catching ones being five new Premium Trains.
The ambitious venture of Premium Trains has been enacted on a dual purpose mechanism of not just providing a quick remedy to passengers who are looking at last minute travel but also to fill the depleting coffers of railways.
Till date, passengers had been paying touts a huge premium to get last minute reservations. Officials formulated this plan to not only reduce illegalities in the system but also generate additional revenue that was otherwise being pocketed by unscrupulous elements in the babu-tout nexus.
Information provided by the railways website shows that currently there are 23 Premium Trains on the tracks, tickets for which can be booked by paying the prevailing market price on the day they are booked. Tickets can be booked 15 days in advance and adult fares are payable irrespective of the age of the passengers. The base fare for Premium Trains is higher or equal to ‘Tatkal’ tickets of other express trains.
After Shatabdi, Duronto and Rajdhani, Premium Trains are among the fastest in India. For example, the Premium Train run on the Delhi-Mumbai route is 30 minutes faster than the Rajdhani on the same route which takes around 16 hours to complete the journey. Also, as compared to other express services, Premium Trains halt at a limited number of stations even though they run on the most crowded routes.
Currently, only e-tickets can be booked over the internet and no “waitlisted” ones are issued. No refunds would be granted on ticket cancellation except when a train’s run is scrapped by Indian Railways due to unforeseen circumstances or due to severe disturbances affecting operations.
Data given by Northern Railways shows that during the Summer Rush, between April 1 and June 30 this year, a total of 25 pairs of Premium Specials to 35 destinations, comprising 508 trips, were run. Out of 50 trips of 10 Premium Specials during April 2014, the number of passengers booked in these trains was 37025. Occupancy of 80% was registered with corresponding earnings at Rs 448 lakh.
Out of 110 trips of 16 Premium Specials during May 2014, the number of passengers booked in these trains was 97643. Occupancy of 96% was registered with earnings at Rs 1713 lakh. In June, 93 trips of 13 Premium Specials were planned and 86345 passengers travelled in it generating Northern Railways Rs 1612 lakh as revenue with 102% occupancy.
In all, between April and June 2014, 221013 passengers travelled in these trains with Northern Railways earning Rs 3773 lakh.