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When train tickets cost more than air fares..

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.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chennai/When-train-tickets-cost-more-than-air-fares/articleshow/49522872.cms

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Posted by on October 25, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Indian bullet train could transform subcontinent – if it ever arrives

It is business as usual down at Nizamuddin railway station in Delhi. Crowds press across the footbridge, fighting the ragged porters bearing baggage on their heads going the other way. A family makes a wall of luggage and sits down to lunch behind it. A horde of children in festive hats crowd on to platform seven. Supporters from two rival amateur cricket teams eye each other warily on platform five.

Rohit Saxena, a recently retired bureaucrat, is waiting for the Gondwana Express, which will take him 1,000 km (600 miles) across plains, forests and hills to the city of Jabalpur. It is a comfortable journey, the 61-year-old said, but, at 18 hours, “a little long”.

“If you take the train in India you have to have time,” Saxena said.

Yet, as with so much in this fast developing country, transformative change is on the way. Even if, like the Gondwana Express, it might take substantially longer to arrive than some may hope.

That change was signalled last week when minister Suresh Prabhu told parliamentarians that a feasibility study for trains capable of scything through the Indian countryside at up to 400 km/h would report in a matter of months.

Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, has raised the prospect of India developing a network of bullet trains, such as those pioneered by Japan and France.

Modi won a landslide electoral victory last year with a pledge to boost flagging growth in the emerging power and invest in its crumbling infrastructure. The trains were featured in campaign speeches as a symbol of the technologically potent nation he envisaged, and even made their way into the manifesto of his Bharatiya Janata party (BJP), alongside the construction of 100 smart cities and a cleanup of the heavily polluted river Ganges.

But building the half-dozen proposed bullet train lines proposed would, it turns out, be hugely expensive. Prabhu, the minister of railways, warned parliament that the cost of each kilometre would be well in excess of £10m, in what observers said was a subtle bid to lower expectations.

Analysts say the funds needed may rule out any such network for many decades.

“For India to try to build a fully state-owned [bullet train] network would be disastrous,” said Samir Saran, of the Observer Research Foundation thinktank.

Few doubt the need for massive investment in India’s overcrowded and underfunded railways, particularly given regional rival China’s massive splurge in a new network of trains running at 400km/h or more. One newspaper recently termed the rivalry the “Dragon v the Sloth Bear”.

“I am a firm believer that if this country is going to progress, [the] railways are the only mode of transport whereby we can meet the threat posed to the world by China,” said Vivek Khare, an author of a book on the Indian railway.

Indian trains today average under 60 km/h which, though an improvement on 50km/h several decades ago, still puts them among the slowest in the world.

Though car ownership has surged and low-cost airlines have boomed through three decades of rapid economic growth, railways have been neglected by successive governments, even though they remain the main means of long-distance transport for hundreds of millions of people.

One alternative to the bullet trains is what has been described as a “semi-bullet train”.

An adapted local locomotive set a new speed record during a test between Delhi, the capital, and the city of Agra, home to the famous Taj Mahal late last year.

The train managed to run at 160km/h for a short distance, completing the 190 km trip in around 90 minutes. Foreign-made locomotives might also be used, officials have said.

“High-speed trains should be the dream of a developed India but each country has its characteristics. We have to make up our slowness and delay and this is a very uphill task,” said Khare.

The most ambitious line currently planned for “semi-bullet” trains, would eventually connect the eastern port city of Kolkata with Delhi. Currently the journey can take 36 hours.

Eventually, it is hoped, a new national network of upgraded and additional high-speed track – dubbed the diamond quadrilateral – will be in service.

Despite aged rolling stock, buckling tracks, wandering elephants and Maoist guerillas, Indian Railway’s 1.25 million employees run 17,000 trains carrying up to 25 million people every day.

Costs of train tickets have been kept low for decades to help the poor in India, though this has meant wealthier customers turning to the burgeoning air sector.

Christian Wolmar, the UK-based transport writer, said that, as China had successfully built a vast new bullet train network, there was “no reason why India shouldn’t”.

“It would be transformational. It’s not just about speed but about creating a new network and adding fantastic amounts of capacity. Given how full trains are in India and how bad roads are, it’s a great alternative,” Wolmar said.

Major infrastructure projects in India are notoriously difficult to both launch and to complete, facing multiple problems of engineering capacity, bureaucracy, political interference, land acquisition and finance.

One success however has been a series of modern airports built across the country, and mass transit systems such as the £450m Delhi metro.

There are fears about safety too. Accidents are common. A derailment last week killed 30 people in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

Saran, the analyst, said that a less ambitious plan which would use public funds to bring in private finance to build “commercially viable” individual lines would be more sensible.

India has extended its rail network by only around 10,000km to 65,000km since winning its independence from Britain in 1947.

The railways have long played a key cultural role in the country, featuring in many of its greatest films and books, as well as being central to some of its most important historical events.

“It is the nerve system of the nation,” said Khare. “It’s failure will lead to our collapse. It is this important.”

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/mar/24/indian-bullet-train-could-transform-subcontinent-if-it-ever-arrives

 
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Posted by on March 24, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Flight fares dip to almost par with second AC train tickets

You can now fly to Delhi for the cost of a Rajadhani Express ticket ( 3,000), thanks to the dip in aviation fuel prices and competition during the lean period.

Travel agents say the fare cut is mostly to draw travellers during the lean season that starts in January-end and also to lend confidence to travellers who postponed travel due to high fares triggered by disruption in Spicejet schedules last month. A dip in oil prices meanwhile will help airlines to manage rising cost.

The special fares offered by Air India, Indigo Airlines and Jet Airways have pulled down the fares for travel between mid January and April-end. The fares are now just 550- 1,000 more than a two-tier AC berth on a train on routes from Chennai to Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Bangalore.

This is expected to be a big boost to people wanting to travel home for family visits or to getaway destinations for a short holiday.

A one-way flight ticket costs 2,900-3,000 on Chennai-Mumbai route, 3,000-5,500 on Chennai-Delhi route and 1,400 on Chennai-Bangalore route.

People who can plan two months in advance will be able to fly to Delhi by spending just 550 to 1,000 more than the Rajdhani train fares. Similar are the rates for Mumbai with a plane ticket for travel in March and April costing just 950 more than AC two-tier train fare.

“Airlines have introduced the discounted fares to boost travel. Flights are not going full on Chennai-Mumbai and Chennai-Delhi routes now. The number of people who fly will come down further after mid-January. The low fare will encourage people to fly on short vacations,” said Basheer Ahmed of Metro Travels.

A dip in aviation turbine fuel prices, which has fallen to its lowest since February 2011, has come as a blessing to airlines. Fuel bills amount to 50% of an airline’s operating cost. “Airlines will be able to offer discounts without much of an impact on their cost due to low fuel price.

“With tickets starting as low as 1,557, the sale has witnessed enthusiastic response. Bookings are up by over 100% week-on-week. This sale was followed by a similar offer from Jet Airways,” said MakeMyTrip senior vice-president (flights) Ranjeet Oak.

“The fares are expected to draw travellers who otherwise go by higher class on trains. The offer is also aimed at travellers who postponed their trips last month because of a hike due in fares due to disruption in SpiceJet schedule,” said Basheer. Economy air fares touched 10,000-20,000 on busy routes last month.

TOI

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Dynamic fares in railways

Introduction of dynamic fares by the Railways ministry in the country, which have hiked the fares for the average passengers in the Indian trains, is unlikely to go down well with the commuters in the months to come. As a result of dynamic fares in the Indian trains, majority of the tickets purchased by the lower class, lower middle class and middle class commuters, have witnessed two or three fold increase in net payment by the consumers to the railways or the travel agents apart from the over and above payments for ‘Tatkal’ bookings. Since the basic fares which were hiked about three months back by the BJP led NDA government at the centre have remained the same, there is hardly any difference between the prices of tickets booked well in advance or a few weeks before the travel schedule for the commuters. For majority of the consumers, the dynamic fare scheme introduced has meant shelling out more money for a ticket, which has usually been available at fixed rates besides the component of ‘Tatkal’ booking fixed amount.

Now the experience has shown that commuters are yet to gauge the impact of dynamic fares scheme in railways and the moment they realise that railway tickets are costing more than air ticket of any airline between two stations, they will go up in arms in most parts of the country. Similarly, passes introduced by the Indian Railways for regular travel between two fixed stations for the short journey cost lesser for the passenger than those going on the long distance journey covering the similar number of stations. The train tickets are not covered by similar terms and conditions, which govern the air ticket bookings under dynamic fare schemes. The basic price for railway tickets continues to remain the same for the passengers compared to cheaper tickets purchased for an air travel between two stations with sometimes, the basic air fare touching as low as Re 1 with add on taxes, which are fixed as per the norms governing different airports in the country. In the process, the poor people travelling in the trains in general classes or having reservations in two or three tiers are forced to shell out more money compared to the past regime when they paid fixed fare.

Same is the case with dynamic freight charges which have been going up every year due to higher collection of revenue from the contractors, who charge beyond the fixed rates. Since the demand and supply in the railways has witnessed a huge gap because of non-availability of freight wagons, the users are forced cough up more money due to cartels that have come up in the form of contractors’ unions. Even the regular consumers, who have been using railways freight carriers as a means of transportation of goods, have been forced to shell out more money for the same materials which are cheaper to transport through trucks or other alternate transport modes. All this is happening due to cartelization of contractors, who have entered this business through the backdoor or through favouritism enjoyed by them from the ministers and politicians, ruling the roost at the helm of affairs.

Moreover, they have formed unions which work more as cartels for charging freight rates as per their whims and fancies and fleecing the fellow businessmen for making a quick buck in the process. The last stations on the freight corridors or the tail end stations are the worst affected because of the fact that some businessmen and industrialists have no other alternative available for transporting their heavy duty goods, which can be carried only through railway wagons. These situations have also been witness to clashes between the two parties but ultimately, the small time industrialists have to bow before these cartels for timely delver of their goods to end users in most parts of the country. The refusal of the railway authorities to intervene in such situations has only further confounded the confusion and the conditions for the railways wagon users in the country.

 
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Posted by on November 15, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Now, cash on delivery for rail tickets

Looking to tap into the large mass of passengers that do not have access to internet banking or debit cards, a pilot project for cash on delivery of train tickets will start next month from Delhi. Within six months, the service will be extended to over 150 cities.

Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) has tied up with a private player for ‘e-dakiya’ cash on delivery services on a separate portal, bookmytrain.com. The domain name is registered with Anduril Technologies, which will manage the project, according to IRCTC executives.

The service will cost more as the private player will charge Rs 60 for delivery of a ticket in an air-conditioned compartment and Rs 40 for a ticket in ones without air-conditioning. These charges are over and above the IRCTC’s service fee, bank charges and other taxes.

Tatkal tickets can be bought and no preference will be given in the booking process to the private player. This company will act as a travel agent without blocking availability of tickets for passengers buying e-tickets.

At a time when e-commerce players are plagued by high product returns ordered through cash on delivery, IRCTC says it is guarded against this risk. “The private partner will pay IRCTC upfront for all booked tickets. The risk related to collecting cash and delivery lies with the private player,” said an IRCTC executive.

IRCTC books more than half of all reserved train tickets. In 2013, about 140.6 million e-tickets were booked on the IRCTC portal.

“The idea is to reach consumers who do not have debit cards or who are not comfortable sharing bank details online. This project can take a lot of load off booking counters as more people will booking online,” said an official from the information technology department of the railways.

IRCTC earlier provided an i-ticket service where tickets were delivered to passengers who paid for them online. But soon after e-ticketing took off. The i-ticket service was taken off the new IRCTC portal because very few people used the service, said IRCTC executives.

A new e-ticketing system developed by the Centre of Railway Information Systems was launched by IRCTC recently with a capacity to book 7,200 tickets per minute.

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Posted by on August 22, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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SMS rail ticket booking yet to gather speed

SMS-based train ticket booking has not caught on yet, even though Internet-based ticketing is in high demand.

Two weeks after the Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) launched SMS-based train ticket booking, only 135-140 tickets are booked every day.

This is less than five per cent of the 3.85 lakh train tickets that are booked online every day on an average. This is also under two per cent of the 8.5 lakh train tickets booked daily, both online and offline.

“We are booking an average of 130 tickets a day through SMS-based booking,” said an IRCTC official.

The slow pick-up could be explained by the lack of a large base of people using mobile-based payment mechanism, which is a must for SMS-based train ticket booking.

Payment for SMS-based train ticket booking can be done through the mobile-based transaction mechanism of over 26 banks, and mobile wallet mechanisms, such as Airtel Money and Zipcash.

Also, most passengers hit the Internet to check ticket availability as well as to do the booking. While IRCTC has launched this service on a pilot basis and is monitoring its performance over three months, the company hopes that over a longer term, SMS-based ticketing will catch up with or even exceed Internet-based bookings.

The company feels that given the low Internet connectivity levels in the country, SMS-based ticketing will be the way forward to make available booking facility in the rural areas.

About 15 per cent of India’s population has access to the Internet, while about 70 per cent has access to mobile phones.

While IRCTC has launched the SMS-based booking window, the core Net-based capacity — between IRCTC and Centre for Railway Information System (CRIS) — has not yet increased.

In effect, to book a reserved ticket, passengers’ SMS-based requests compete with Internet-based requests.

CRIS handles the passenger reservation system server, which is the Indian Railways’ core server with train ticket booking inventory. All booking requests — be it from IRCTC or ticket booking clerks — go to the CRIS server.

All SMS-based ticket booking requests first go to IRCTC and then to CRIS.

http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/industry-and-economy/logistics/sms-rail-ticket-booking-yet-to-gather-speed/article4909165.ece

 
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Posted by on July 14, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Toll-free complaint number to be printed on train tickets

In an effort to improve food quality at rail premises and help passengers lodge complaints against poor catering services, the Railways has decided to print a toll free helpline number behind train tickets.

Though Railways had launched the 10-digit helpline number (1800—111—321) in January, the response is so far tepid only.

“The number of complaints against catering service on an average is five to six per day. This is because of the less awareness about the operation of the toll-free number,” a senior Railway Ministry official.

“That is why it has been decided that all train tickets will have the toll-free number on the backside and the modalities are being worked out to change the software for it,” he said, adding, “This will help creating awareness about the ready availability of complaint mechanism.”

Besides, stickers with toll-free number will also be put on coaches as part of the awareness campaign.

The Railways has set up a central monitoring cell with the toll free number for the convenience of railway users to register their complaints regarding railways’ catering services like food quality, over charging both at railway stations and in running trains.

The facility is available all seven days from 7 am to 10 pm. Food is generally served to the passengers during this time.

According to the official, as soon as the complaint is registered, all possible action will be taken on real time basis to address that issue.

Follow-up actions are taken after receiving complaints or suggestions regarding catering service through the tollfree number, said the official.

Till date Railways has realised about Rs 5 lakh as penalty from caterers due to the complaints registered through the toll-free number.

http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/industry-and-economy/logistics/tollfree-complaint-number-to-be-printed-on-train-tickets/article4585016.ece

 
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Posted by on April 6, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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