Indian Railways has clarifies that slightly higher fares for short distance passenger trains are being imposed to discourage people from unnecessary travel in the given situation.
Amid the reports about higher fares for short distance travelling in passenger trains, the national transporter said that "these slightly higher fares for passenger and other short distance trains had been introduced to discourage people from avoidable travels and those which are not most necessary. These fares are fixed at an unreserved price of mail/express trains for the same distance."
According to the railways, slightly higher fares are applicable only for 326 trains which are less than 3 per cent of total trains running at the moment.
The railways is running a total of 1,250 mail/express, 5,350 suburban service, and more than 326 passenger trains are presently in operation on an average on a daily basis.
The railways had suspended passengers operation in the last week of March in 2020 after the lockdown was announced, and the service was partially restored since the coronavirus-triggered curbs were eased.
Currently, the railways is running only special trains as per demand with close coordination with the state administration.
Since the Covid situation is still prevailing in some parts of the country, we have to run trains with lot of precaution, said a senior Railways Ministry official.
The railways maintains that "Covid is still around and in fact, worsening in some states. Visitors from many states are being subjected to screening in other areas and discouraged to travel. Little higher price is to be seen as a pro-active measure of the railways to prevent crowding in trains and stop Covid from spreading."
The passenger service was started with long-distance trains, and now more and more short-distance passenger trains are being pressed into service to cater to the demand of the increasing number of rail users.
As a special provision in view of the Covid-19 pandemic, the fares of these trains have been fixed at par with the price of unreserved tickets of mail and express trains for the same distance, according to the railways.
Short distance passenger trains running presently constitute less than 3 per cent of total trains. More such trains are in the pipeline in consultation with the state governments.
Keeping in view the prevailing Covid situation, after the introduction of mail/express trains, the railways is gradually operationalising passenger trains taking all necessary precautions and making additional efforts.
Health situation of states, and the views of the state governments, etc need to be taken into account before getting into normal operations.
It may be noted that passenger operations have always been subsidised by railways. Normally, the railways bears a loss on every journey by a passenger.
The railways has been running trains in Covid times in most challenging circumstances. Many trains are being run in spite of low occupancy for the benefit of people.
Not only this, the railways has taken special care about those travelling by lowest fare so that even in Covid times they bear the least burden.
In all the trains that are being run, besides other classes, the trains have a large number of 2S class coaches, which have the lowest fare in the reserved category. About 40 per cent of the passengers have travelled in 2S class in much better traveling conditions than pre Covid, unreserved travelling situations.
With a view to regulate rush at stations and in trains, passenger trains are being charged slightly more fare than pre-Covid times and a close watch is being kept on its patronage. The situation is being constantly monitored to ensure restoration of services in keeping with the protocols necessary to be followed during Covid times.
Arun Kumar Das is a senior journalist covering railways. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
An appeal from Swarajya
At Swarajya, we rely on our readers' support through subscriptions to sustain our media platform. Unlike larger conglomerates, we are unable to relentlessly chase advertising money — our model is largely built on your patronage.
Your support has never been more crucial. We work tirelessly to deliver 10-15 high-quality articles daily, ensuring you receive insightful content from 7 AM to 10 PM.
If you believe India's story has to be articulated in a way it has never been done before without shrugging it off, become a patron (or) subscribe now for ₹̶2̶4̶0̶0̶ ₹1999 and get 12 print issues, unlimited digital access for 1 year, a special India that is Bharat T-shirt (Offer ends soon).
We are counting on you!