Arun Kumar Das
(Arun Kumar Das can be contacted at email@example.com)
Improved punctuality, cleaner toilets and coaches and better quality food and bedrolls provided in trains are needed to match the increased fare in premier trains, according to a survey carried out by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India.
A majority of passengers travelling in premier trains responded in the negative when asked whether Indian Railways has seen any improvement in its services commensurate with the enhanced fares, the survey found.
A flexi-fare scheme was introduced in the premier Rajdhani, Duronto and Shatabdi trains in September 2016 to perk up revenue collections in the passenger segment.
To ascertain the opinion of travelling passengers on the flexi-fare system, the CAG administered a survey questionnaire to 806 passengers travelling in 16 Shatabdi trains and 11 Rajdhani trains during April-May 2017.
In the flexi-fare system, the base fares increase by 10 per cent with the sale of every 10 per cent of seats — subject to a maximum of 140 per cent for AC-3 and 150 per cent for all classes, except AC first and Executive Class.
However, despite the enhanced fare in the premier trains, passengers feel that the services are not in line with the hiked tariff while punctuality has taken a back seat. Also, a decreasing trend was noticed in the occupancy rate after implementation of flexi-fare scheme, according to the CAG.
The survey showed that passengers expect better quality services to match the enhanced fares.
To a question on whether Indian Railways have provided any improvement in the services rendered after with fare hike, 495 passengers replied in the negative.
As many as 324 passengers stated that food served in trains needed improvement and 280 passengers indicated that cleanliness of toilets was not up to the mark.
To the question, “Do you feel that you derive value for the money and time you have spent by travelling in a premium train with flexi fare”, 445 passengers replied in the negative while 361 passengers replied in the affirmative.
As many as 479 passengers replied in the affirmative when asked that given the travel time — and the flexi-fare without value addition — would they prefer to travel by air or bus.
Ninety-seven passengers travelling in the AC-2 and AC-3 classes said the bedrolls provided required improvement, while 176 felt punctuality needed to be improved.
On hygiene, 181 passengers maintained that cleanliness inside toilets required improvement while 280 indicated that cleanliness of toilets required attention.
Other significant issues identified by passengers for improvement included prevention of unauthorised vendors, cleanliness at stations and waiting areas, more options/variety in food served, behaviour of pantry car staff, provision of televisions, mobile/laptop charging points and cleaning of windows and curtains.
Though the railways earned Rs 552 crore from passengers in premier trains after the flexi-fare system (from September 9, 2016, to July 31, 2017), there was de-growth of 2.65 per cent in the number of passengers despite availability of a higher number of berths/seats, which resulted in sub-optimal utilisation of national assets.
The CAG, in its latest report tabled in Parliament, observed that passengers expect better quality services matching with enhanced fare else they would switch to other modes of transport.
The CAG has recommended a review and fine-tuning in the scope of the scheme so that not only more revenue is earned but the number of passengers also increases.(IANS)