Train tickets on flexi-fare Suvidha specials have started to cost almost as much as air fares that have become more competitive due to entry of regional low-cost carriers, at least on short-haul routes.
The huge demand for berths for return travel to the city after the puja holidays has made ticket rates skyrocket on a Tirunelveli-Chennai Suvidha special. An AC III tier ticket on the train, a class of trains that has dynamic fares, has touched Rs 3,600 and an AC II tier ticket for travel on Sunday costs Rs 5,195 against Rs 1,000 and Rs 1,420 on Nellai Express. And travellers do not seem to be shying away as AC III tier seats are sold out and only two seats remain in AC II tier.
Sources said this was an all-time high on a southern route. “The fare has shot up because of the high demand for berths. A large number of people are travelling to Chennai from their hometowns because of four holidays due to puja starting on Wednesday. This has pushed up the ticket cost as reservation on scheduled trains are on waitlist,” said a railway official.
The AC II tier ticket on the train is selling at almost the same rate as a Madurai-Chennai one week’s advance air ticket. A one-month’s advance air ticket on Madurai-Chennai route costs less than Rs 2,000 while a Madurai-Chennai ticket is available anywhere between Rs2,000 and 4,000 on a weekday. The last-minute air fare is Rs14,000 for travel on Sunday because of the rush of travellers trying to return to Chennai after the holidays.
Suvidha Specials between Chennai and Thiruvananthapuram and between Chennai and Howrah are also popular though expensive. Reservation status on Saturday night showed there were only 24 AC II tier berths and 67 AC III tier berths available on Chennai-Thiruvanathapuram Suividha special and 157 AC II tier berths at Rs 2,975 each on Chennai-Howrah special.
Rail fan and member of IRFCA Sridhar Joshi said the fares were an indication that there was a market at whatever price. “This also says there is a need for capacity addition on the southern route. Railways should double the entire line so that more trains can be operated. Increase in capacity of infrastructure will help railways to operate regular trains and also special services for people who are ready to pay.”
He also said the focus should not be on one type of trains. “The focus should be on introducing a mix of trains.”
Suvidha Specials are more or less punctual. This will make them more popular as several people are ready to pay premium to travel by trains from towns like Tuticorin, Tirunelveli, Madurai and Nagercoil.