In a shot in the arm for the national transporter, the Indian Railways has achieved a positive growth for the 2016-17 fiscal with over 70 million more passengers travelling in trains than last year, breaking a five-year jinx of negative growth in the passenger sector. Since 2012, booking of passenger tickets had witnessed a decline due to various reasons.
Railway Board Member (Traffic) Md Jamshed said that with concerted efforts, Railways has managed to buck the trend and achieved a positive growth for the year 2016-17. Citing the reason for the turnaround, Jamshed said Railways began several initiatives in the 2016-17 fiscal to carry more passengers by pressing 87 new train services, including Humsafar Express and Antodaya trains.
Jamshed said about 31,438 special trips were run to cater to extra rush, holiday travellers and election/paramilitary movements. Many train services were extended and frequencies of certain trains were also increased to cater to the demand of passengers, he explained.
Besides, 586 additional coaches were added in regular trains, generating an extra capacity of 43,420 berths by the last fiscal ending March 31, 2017. The 2016-17 fiscal also saw seeding up of 350 trains and 74 trains were made superfast service.
Another significant achievement of the last fiscal is that railways detected 9.75 lakh cases of ticket-less travel which is 6 per cent higher over the previous year. As a result of increased number of passengers bookings, railways earned Rs 1,906 crore more than the previous year in passenger sector.
Indian railways passengers will continue to get benefits of service charge exemption on train tickets booked online till June 30. The exemption facility effective till March 31 this year has been extended further to June 30 after the national transporter received instructions from the Ministry of Information and Technology advising the public transporter to extend the incentives at least till June 30. The service charges on booking train tickets online through IRCTC ranges from Rs 20 to 40 per ticket.
In order to help passengers and incentivise payments made through digital modes for booking of reserved tickets, service charge on online booking of train tickets was withdrawn for the tickets booked from November 23, 2016 to March 31, 2017. The Government had waived the service charges after demonetisation in November last year to encourage digital modes of booking.
Approximately, an amount of Rs 184 crore has not been realised from passengers on account of service charge and service tax thereon on reserved tickets booked online from November 23, 2016 to February 28, 2017, according to railways data.