Railway accused of collecting hidden charges

Staff Reporter

‘ Tatkal is nothing but legalising black marketing’

Coimbatore: Coimbatore Consumer Cause (CCC) in a memorandum to the Prime Minister and the Union Railway Minister has objected to the practice of Railway collecting hidden charges by issuing administrative orders introducing more quota for tatkal, superfast charges, surcharge, safety charges and so on.

In a memorandum, CCC Secretary K. Kathirmathiyon said recently that the Railways Board announced that it had decided to give waitlisted passengers of trains an opportunity to opt for booking under Tatkal quota at the time of booking their waitlisted ticket itself. If the passengers opted for the facility, along with the fares, Tatkal charges would be charged at the time of booking waitlisted ticket. These types of passengers would get 50 per cent of Tatkal accommodation earmarked.

Further it was also announced that Tatkal facilities had been extended to day time trains also. Earlier at the time introduction of the Tatkal facility it was announced by the Railways that it was introducing the facility to help those making travel plans at the last minute owing to some emergency needs. But now the Railways was allowing booking of Tatkal tickets well in advance and such a trend defeated the earlier definition of providing scope for the last minute passengers having emergency reasons to travel. Now, the Railways had shown that Tatkal was another commercial way to collect more money for the same facility.

In Southern Railways alone the total number of tickets available for the Tatkal scheme was 14,936 and the average Tatkal charge collected was Rs.10,92,615 per day. In the two trains (Nilgiri Express and Cheran Express) alone it was Rs. 1,16,488 per day and it was Rs. 4.25 crore per year. Further 200 per cent Tatkal charges were collected in 36 important trains in this zone alone. Though the Railways announced a maximum quota of 20 per cent of sleeper class tickets, we found that it was more in a number of trains where the demand was higher.

For example, the Tatkal quota in case of Nilgiri Express (Mettupalyam to Chennai) was 33.33 per cent and Coimbatore to Chennai it was 28.37 per cent.

The Tatkal concept was not at all appreciated since it was nothing but legalizing the black marketing i.e. selling tickets at higher rates when the demand was more. Further it denied the opportunity of the other waitlisted passengers since the Tatkal tickets are issued only out of the existing tickets. If the so-called Tatkal tickets were not issued then this would be released only to the waitlisted genuine passengers.

Tatkal quota reduced the number of tickets available to the other genuine passengers in the general category. Maximum fare is collected (origination to termination) even if the tickets were availed by passengers of intermediate stations. Further Tatkal amount is double during peak hours (i.e. more the crowd more the money). Railways collected hidden charges as Tatkal charges, surcharge on super fast trains, safety charges, and extra reservation charges if the passenger boarded train at other intermediary stations.

All these charges in several thousand crores were collected without any additional facility to consumers and also without any additional expenses to the Railways. The Parliamentary Committee on Railways and many members of Parliament had also criticised collection of hidden charges.