Indian Railways is considering introduction of dynamic fares for all classes in all trains on the lines of air fares. The plan was mooted after the success of premium trains and Suvidha though fares were expensive, sometimes touching levels that are just 50% lower than air fares on many of the short routes.
As passenger traffic has been dipping in the last few years across the country, railways is looking at different ways to generate revenue from passengers on high-density routes. Different suggestions are being mooted by the commercial wing of railway zones because railways has limitations in expanding its network. Passenger earnings went up by 8.5% in April-September period when compared to the corresponding period last year though the number of passengers dipped.
Sources said that railway ministry was discussing two options – introduction of dynamic fares, which will increase and decrease depending on the demand for tickets, and to introduce special fares for tickets booked closer to the departure date.
An official said that railways was working on different proposals to include in the budget. “The aim is to generate revenue and provide easy access to tickets for a large number of people. Under the current booking system there is duplication of booking wherein people or agents book tickets in multiple number of trains to ensure confirmed berths. Dynamic fares and tweaking of cancellation policy will boost revenue to railways and help genuine travelers.”
A senior railway official said that different options were being considered at different meetings. “A decision will be taken to form a policy only after considering all aspects of a proposal. The premium policy has changed from running premium trains last year to operating Suvidha special trains. This has been a success.”
The experience of Suvidha special trains in Southern Railway and on certain routes in South Western Railway under which Bengaluru falls have been encouraging. The patronage in spite of the cost of tickets showed that people were ready to pay to get a berth on trains. As most of the high density routes, for example Chennai-Madurai and Chennai-Thiruvananthapuram, have huge demand for seats and travelers are not cost conscious.
“The new cancellation and refund rules may be expensive but are designed to eliminate agents booking tickets. Under the existing practice, agents book tickets on many trains and will cancel and get their refunds after the train departs. Now, the left over tickets will be open for booking under current booking,” said an official.
The half-yearly performance of Indian Railways report for the period April to September this year shows that railways plans to generate 17.8% of the funds from internal resources. The report says that earnings from passenger operations have steadily increased in the last three years, from Rs 18,077 crore in 2013-14 to Rs 23,100 crore this year.
Officers are encouraged to come up with new ideas. Railways minister Suresh Prabhu has been delegating powers at functional level and meetings of officers of different zones are also being held frequently.