New Delhi, October 28: Indian Railways continue to face blues as seats in premium trains such as Rajdhani, Shatabdi and Duronto Express are reportedly going vacant, ahead of Diwali festival.
This could be a clear red signal of a looming threat of a further fall in railway revenues during the festival season including winter vacations, Christmas and New Year.
According to Dainik Bhaskar, as on 27 October, 72 seats were vacant in Rajdhani AC II Tier bound for Bilaspur. The figure is going to fall in the coming months as trains are expected to be facing at least 40 per cent more traffic during Diwali festival.
The Railways Ministry had introduced flexi surge pricing scheme as a “water test scheme” on September 9 on premium trains, ahead of festival season in the country so as to cap as much as Rs 1000 crore in a year.
Under the flexi surge pricing, the fare for premium trains go as high as 50 per cent. The fare hike is followed by every 10 percent sale of tickets. Thus during the festive rush, anyone who failed to book ticket in the past has available seats of premium trains to book at escalated price. The flexi fare was expected to add at least 200 crore in October month.
On the contrary, the revenue collection of Railways in the first half of October has declined by Rs 232 crore as compared to the revenues collected same time last year. In fact railways have experienced the lowest footfall this October.
The data reveals that railways collected only Rs 4,072 crore from October 1 to 10 this year which is Rs 232 crore lesser than the collection of 2015-16. Last year, railways collection was Rs 4,304 crore in the same period.
Another report claimed that Mumbai Rajdhani, August Kranti Rajdhani, Sealdah Rajdhani and Trivandrum Rajdhani have a large number of vacant seats for the coming festival season, including December and New Year. Normally these trains are jam packed, followed by a long waiting list.
A senior railway ministry official also admitted that occupancy in premium trains is certainly hit by 15 to 20 per cent after flexi fare scheme was introduced.
“The flexi fare scheme has backfired. Occupancy in trains has gone down substantially as passengers are getting flight tickets at cheaper rates. The railway ministry will review the scheme only after three months,” said the official.
Also Shatabdi trains to Amritsar, Lucknow and Kanpur have lower occupancy this year.
It is suspected that the airline companies are making out for this mega loss in Railways.
Clearly the central government has failed to run railways on track whether it is by scrapping railways budget and saving 10000 crore dividend or introducing flexi surge price scheme.