Indian Railways had stopped the operations of regular trains on 22 March 2020 and is constantly increasing the number of passenger trains in a graded manner.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic-triggered lockdown was eased, the national transporter is running only special trains.
The “slightly high fares” for short-distance passenger trains are only to discourage unnecessary travel, said Piyush Goyal-led Indian Railways on Wednesday. Since the COVID-19 pandemic-triggered lockdown was eased, the national transporter is running only special trains. According to a PTI report, it started with long-distance passenger trains and now, even short-distance passenger trains are being operated as special train services. As a special provision in view of the novel coronavirus outbreak, the fares of these trains have been fixed at par with mail and express trains’ unreserved ticket price, for the same distance. Indian Railways had stopped the operations of regular trains on 22 March 2020 and is constantly increasing the number of passenger trains in a graded manner.
The full restoration of the regular passenger train services to the pre-pandemic times is to be considered by Indian Railways, keeping in view a range of factors as well as operational circumstances. At present, the national transporter has operationalized almost 65% of the mail and express trains as well as over 90% of the suburban train services as compared to the pre-covid lockdown times. The Railway Ministry said that COVID-19 is still around and in fact, in some states, the condition is worsening. Visitors and travellers from various states are being subjected to screening in other areas as well as discouraged to travel. The little fare hike is to be seen as a pro-active measure of the national transporter to prevent crowding in trains and stop novel coronavirus from spreading, the ministry stated.
At present, on a daily basis, 1,250 mail and express trains, 5,350 suburban train services as well as over 326 number of passenger trains are in operation on an average. The short-distance passenger trains account for less than 3% of the total trains being run. Considering the prevailing COVID-19 situation, after the introduction of Mail and Express train services, the national transporter is operationalizing passenger trains gradually, taking all necessary precautions as well as making additional efforts.
According to the ministry, passenger train operations have always been subsidized by Indian Railways. Normally, the national transporter bears a loss on every journey by a railway passenger. Officials had said despite the fare hike, Indian Railways still remained a cheaper option to travel for the public. Due to the covid crisis, trains are being operated under the most challenging circumstances and many trains are being operated in spite of low occupancy, the Railway Ministry said.
Apart from other classes, the special trains that are being operated by Indian Railways have a large number of “2S” (second seating) coaches that have the lowest fare in the reserved category. According to officials, compared to the pre-pandemic unreserved travelling situations, 40% of the railway passengers have travelled in the “2S” class in much better conditions. The long-distance or mail and express special train passengers are, however, paying 10% to 30% higher fares since the services began post covid lockdown. These ticket fares are being charged by passengers under the ticket and refund rules of the year 2015, which stipulate a higher fare for special train services, the report said.