P. Nirmal, an entrepreneur in the city, often ends up travelling as an RAC (reservation against cancellation) passenger to his hometown in Rajasthan even if he books tickets much in advance.
This is a common complaint of many people from some northern states, particularly Rajasthan, who have settled in Chennai. Several residents complain that thousands of people who have settled in the city have to depend on a small number of trains to travel to their home states.
Mr. Nirmal said that tickets for the two direct trains to Rajasthan get booked within a few days four months before the date of departure. There are not sufficient trains to Guwahati too, he said. “During emergencies, I sometimes opt for a flight,” he added.
But not everyone can afford to travel by a flight, says Arjun Singh.N., president of Tamil Nadu Rajasthan Royals Association.
Of the two direct trains to Rajasthan from Chennai, the Chennai Jaipur express is operated twice in a week, while the Chennai Jodhpur express from Chennai Egmore is operated only once a week. “It is not sufficient for thousands of people who travel every day from the city. The number of passengers have increased manifold over the past few years. The waiting list often goes up to over 300 on these trains,” Mr. Arjun said.
Hukmichand Shah of the Federation of Electrical and Electronic Traders Associations of Tamil Nadu said: “I have also experienced the problem of travelling as an RAC passenger to my native village in Rajasthan. I otherwise travel in the Navjeevan express till Ahmedabad and then take a connecting train from there or travel by bus. The Navjeevan Express is crowded as people take the same train to reach other states such as Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra.”
Passengers also complain of the lack of facilities. The Chennai Jodhpur express, for instance, lacks a pantry car. Mr. Arjun said: “It is difficult to travel for over 43 hours without any facility on board for drinking water or food. We have to depend on the railway stations enroute for all our needs.”’
Some passengers said they take a detour to Bangalore from Chennai, board a train to Rajasthan from there and end up spending double the amount on fares.
Though the association has asked the Southern Railway to increase the number of trains, their efforts have been in vain. The associations of Rajasthanis now plan to go on demonstration on Wednesday near the Chennai Collectorate to stress their demands.