Passenger ridership numbers on both the Central Railway and Western Railway witnessed a marginal fall in the year 2015-16 in comparison to the previous year. Administrators on both railways believe the dip is on account of a dip in seasonal ticket users. Every season ticket (monthly/ quarterly / annual) is calculated as multiple commuter rides.
In 2014-15, there was a surge in season ticket buyers, in the days running up to the 14.2 per cent fare hike of June 2014. This has not been matched by a similar number of season ticket buyers in 2015-16, the railways surmise.
“Three days before a fare hike of 14. 2 per cent in rail fares was introduced in June 2014, a sudden rush to buy season tickets was seen. This has negatively affected passenger commute count in 2015-16,” said a Central Railway official.
The passenger commute on Central Railway faced a dip of 0.63 per cent in 2015-16 as compared to 2014-15. The number of commuters fell from 144 crore in 2014-15 to 142. 90 crore in 2015-16.
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In Western Railway, the number came down from 127 crore in 2014-15 to 124 crores in 2014-15.
On the other hand, both Central and Western Railway witnessed a surge in fare revenues, especially owing to the fare hike. While the Central Railway made an earning of Rs 812.39 crore in 2015-16 as compared to Rs 800 crore in 2014-15, Western Railway also recorded a surge of five crore in 2015-16 when compared to the previous financial year.
“Due to the rise in ticket prices, passenger demand for regular tickets comes down. Also, a surge in the service tax from 12.36 per cent from 2014 to 14.5 per cent now for the first class passengers can be another reason for a recorded growth of revenue returns from commuters,” said a Central railway source.
However, losing out on some of their loyal commuters to other evolving modes of transport also seemed to be the common concern of the Railways.
“A lot of short-distance commuters of suburban railways have moved on to using monorail and metro for commuting towards their work places. Apart from that, the infrastructure development including Eastern Freeway, Chembur-Santacruz Link Road, the call taxis and others have encouraged the use of other transportation,” said a senior official from Railways.
Vijay Aravamudhan, a railway activist said, “It is time now that people move towards using other modes of transport than just railways as the dependence on using the same is increasing the commuter rush. Another reason could be the increase in commuting time taken by trains. This happens when there is excessive use of signals done to manage the traffic on the tracks as trains are scheduled every 2.5 minutes on a platform to meet the excess public demand.”
Meanwhile, automatic ticket vending mahcine (ATVM) and mobile ticket users witnessed a surge in 2015-16. The number of ATVM users have come up from 12.08 crore passengers to 17.56 crore in 2015-16 for the Central Railway.
Western Railway also witnessed a rise of 206 per cent for ATVM users in 2015-16.
Also, the concept of mobile ticketing which asks commuters to book their tickets online was well received by commuters this year.