Fighting to stay in existence, the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation Limited (IRCTC) will be slashing charges on booking e-tickets to match the competition its parent body, the Indian Railways, has decided to throw at it by launching a parallel online passenger ticket reservation system.

Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee's budget announcement to allow the Railways to launch a new portal and sell tickets at lower booking charges has made the IRCTC just a tourism promotional venture. It has already been shorn of its food catering business.

The IRCTC, however, has expressed its unwillingness to bow out of the e-ticket selling business without giving its parent body a fight, deciding to sell tickets at the same reduced service charge that the Railways propose to levy to hook passengers to its portal.

The Minister announced that the service charge on A/C tickets will be Rs.10 and Rs.5 for sleeper class tickets — lower by 50 per cent of the charge currently levied for the two categories of tickets. The IRCTC too proposes to bring its rates down by a similar amount.

Yields revenue

With the Railways proposing to launch the new portal in the next financial year, the IRCTC is pondering its own date to pre-empt the loss of business. As of now, the IRCTC sells 3-lakh to 3.5-lakh tickets daily and gets handsome revenue.

Like in the food catering business, the IRCTC has come under much criticism over the sale of tickets, particularly the way the Tatkal tickets are cornered by the brokers with the general public unable to even access the server and book tickets on their own.

The Railways had received more than 1,200 complaints against the poor quality of food served during the 10 months of the current financial year itself.

The Railways has now taken upon itself to set right the system.

The fact, however, remains that 154 long-distance trains are yet to be provided with pantry car facilities.

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