By Prarthana Mitra
To cushion the blow of rising fuel costs, the rail ministry on Friday announced a reduction of train fares and a slew of discounts for regular commuters. As the flexi-fare scheme is nearing its dilution in September end, after two years of moderate success, the Indian Railways is hopeful that eliminating it will bring fares down by a large extent.
Going by the ministry’s reports, more than a hundred trains will be eligible for the new scheme. After trains exit the flexi-fare mode, a discount of 50% will be offered on last-minute booking for at least 100 trains. This offer will be valid till four days prior to the departure date.
Another discount scheme is likely to be announced for trains with low occupancy.
Discount schemes to replace flexi-fares
Under the flexi-fare scheme, the price of train tickets increases as bookings grow and occupancy lessens. It has drawn criticism from several sectors, and recently in a Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report, especially because fares increase in leaps and bounds for in-demand trains. In the case of Shatabdi, Rajdhani and Duronto, for example, the fare increases by 10% with every 10% of berths sold.
The flexi-fare scheme, coupled with the recent trend of reduction in airline fees, has seen an increasing movement towards and preference for air travel. The department also noted that the demand and occupancy for the Chennai-Mysore Shatabdi Express shot up as soon as the flexi-fare scheme was slackened.
Earlier this year, the CAG had asked the railways to rationalise the scheme, take economic factors and demands into account, permitting it to continue flexi-fares only on routes where the need arises.
According to media reports, Minister of Railways, Piyush Goyal, is yet to take a final call on the matter. Meanwhile, the Railway Board has sent a final list of recommendations to the minister, requesting modifications to the fare chart according to the pattern of demands for trains.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.
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