Indian Railways is in the final stages of diluting its flexi-fare scheme which was introduced in September 2016 – a move that will come as a big relief for passengers as train ticket prices go down. Sources told Financial Express Online that recommendations for partially doing away with the flexi-fare scheme have been sent to Railway Minister Piyush Goyal who is expected to take a decision soon. “The Railway Board has sent the final recommendations on flexi-fare scheme to the minister, a final clearance is now awaited,” sources told FE Online. So, will the flexi-fare scheme be completely done away with? No, but modifications will be introduced in line with the demand pattern of the trains, sources said.
“There are more than hundred trains on which the flexi-fare scheme is applicable. The recommendations that have gone to the Railway Minister suggest that flexi-fare be removed from some trains, while on others some modifications be made,” a railway ministry official told FE Online. “However, till these recommendations are approved by the Railway Minister, nothing is finalised,” the official added.
According to a ToI report, flexi-fare scheme will be removed from as many as 40 trains, while in 102 trains an offer of up to 50% discount on last-minute ticket booking may be given. This would be applicable for up to four days before the train journey. A graded discount scheme may also be introduced for trains with low occupancy rates, the report said. The move comes on the back of a trial run on the Chennai-Mysuru Shatabdi where occupancy went up after the flexi-fare scheme was tweaked, the report claimed.
Since its introduction, the Indian Railways flexi-fare scheme which increases the train ticket tariff as the occupancy rate goes up, has come under criticism from passengers. The flexi-fare scheme was introduced on Shatabdi, Rajdhani and Duronto Express trains. The train fare increases by 10% as every 10% of the berths/seats are occupied/sold. There is a tariff cap of 140% for AC-III tier class of travel and that of 150% for all classes except AC First and Executive Chair Car. Incidentally, post introduction of the flexi-fare scheme, it became cheaper to travel by air on some routes.
Recently, a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) also slammed Indian Railways for introducing flexi-fare scheme in an ad hoc way. According to CAG, on several routes that the flexi-fare scheme was introduced, passengers switched to air travel as a more affordable and convenient option. The report also stated that occupancy trends of trains suggest that some passengers even switched to travelling in Mail/Express trains instead of the trains in which flexi-fare scheme is applicable. CAG has recommended that Indian Railways should rationalise the flexi-fare scheme and continue with it only on routes where the demand warrants.