NEW DELHI: The clarification by the Indian Railways — that surge pricing for premier trains like Rajdhani, Shatabdi and Duronto is being done on an experimental basis — appears to signal a rethink after criticism, including by leaders like Congress’s Rahul Gandhi and Aam Aadmi Party’s Arvind Kejriwal.
Mr Gandhi said people need faster trains not ticket prices. Delhi Chief Minister Mr Kejriwal asked for a rollback.
Experts say it would be more transparent and effective to do a flat increase in fares if needed. They have pointed out that the railways has a monopoly and the demand is always higher than supply, so people will always end up being subjected to surge pricing.
According to the railways’ new rule on surge pricing, passengers travelling by premier trains including Rajdhani, Duronto and Shatadbi Express will have to shell out between 10 and 50 per cent more. Though fares in the most expensive coaches will not change, surge pricing for sleeper classes will be capped at 1.5 times the base fare — a maximum hike of 50%, the railways had said.
The system — to be introduced from September 9 – will affect the fares of 81 trains and was meant to rake in Rs. 500 crore more during the current financial year.
But in face of opposition criticism, Railway Board chairman A K Mital said the dynamic fare system was introduced on an “experimental basis”. “We will review it after some time and see what necessary measures can be taken further,” news agency Press Trust of India quoted him as saying.
Board Member (Traffic) Mohd Jamshed, however defended surge pricing, saying train travel is still the cheapest mode of transport in the country, charging 36 paisa for one km of travel.
With the revenue target for the current fiscal hiked to Rs. 51,000 crore against Rs. 45,000 crore of the last fiscal, the railways is “facing a loss of Rs. 33,000 crore in the passenger segment,” Mr Jamshed was quoted as saying by PTI.
The railways, he added, had spent Rs. 1,800 crore in passenger amenities by improving platform area, installing lifts, water vending machines and many more such facilities.