‘17 new trains won’t affect general travellers’

The announcement of 17 premium trains, called Jai Hind, in the interim Railway budget for 2014-15 has given rise to a question: will the measure hit general passengers in particular, and the Railways in general?

Railway Minister Mallikarjun Kharge denied that the focus was only on catering for high-end passengers and said the money earned from this segment would be used for creating amenities in general trains.

Railway Board Member (Traffic) D.P. Pande said alternative methods of earning had to be evolved, and the measure would not affect the public.

He parried questions whether the thrust on premium trains was causing the Railways a huge loss as the other trains were treated as second-rate, most of them running late. The delayed running has pushed short-distance travellers to road transport. The Railways suffered a loss of Rs. 3,700 crore in passenger earnings this year, especially because of the drop in short-distance passengers.

Mr. Pande said only long-distance routes had been chosen for running premium trains, and their prices would be based on demand. A survey revealed a long waiting list for all classes of travel on these 17 routes, holding out potential for the Railways to earn more.

A trial between Delhi and Mumbai during Christmas and New Year yielded 48 per cent more. A cap on the maximum would be placed, based on class and sector; but the minimum fare would be the base rate of the Rajdhani Express and Tatkal charges.

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