Domestic airlines can rejoice as the Indian Railways in a blueprint found that in the next three years, mostly upper-class passengers would prefer to travel by air. The Ministry of Railways has prepared a detailed blueprint of the projection for 2019-2020 which shows future trends to expect in the future, Indian Express reported. Railways may lose a huge chunk of its upper class clientele to the airlines. The blueprint says that while airlines has an edge over railways due to high speed and lesser time travel but the railways have more competitive prices. Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu commissioned an internal assessment report. The blueprint prepared by the Railway board is a part of this report. While railways have always come first in the inter-city travel of a distance within 500 km. The blueprint cites government data showing that about 25 per cent of the domestic air travel occurs in this segment. This is a fairly large percentage considering the misconception air travel is only for 800-1000 km distances.
IE quoted the document saying, “With the proliferation of airports into small towns and massive thrust of low-cost airlines to Tier-II and III cities, there is a clear pattern emerging of air being preferred for even shorter hauls by passengers.” To top that, government schemes like UDAAN which provides air travel of less than an hour for Rs 2,500 will boost the aviation sector.
NITI Aayog member Bibek Debroy told IE that for shorter distances, road sector has been taking over the railways, and the long-distance travel is being claimed by the aviation sector. The Railways had earlier said that they have been losing passengers in 100-km segment due to better road connectivity and more two-wheelers. Ajay Shukla, former Railway Board Member (Traffic) said that in most developed nations, Railways generally do not cater to long-distance travel, leaving that to the airlines. Giving the example of Delhi to Chennai, a distance of 2,000 km, Shukla told IE that railways should leave such a long commute to the airlines. He said that railways should focus on more freight trains instead.