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WESTERN Railway’s Mumbai-Delhi Rajdhani Express train is facing stiff competition from the air travel sector, said Mukul Jain, the Divisional Railway Manager, Western Railway. The second class ridership of the train is currently witnessing lower footfall than expected, he added.
In an attempt to give a facelift to the Rajdhani, the WR has modernised the coaches and improved the interiors. Under Project Swarn, the seating area and pantry cars have been modified with additional amenities. “There is a continuous endeavor in the Mumbai division to improve, innovate and augment passenger experience. The Rajdhani and Shatabdi are our premium trains. They carry a lot of prestige and are a convenient mode of transport for travel to Delhi,” said Jain. “We are facing a stiff competition from the air travel sector. We are trying our best to uplift the travel experience. On January 1, 2018, the Western Railway introduced the Shatabdi Express with renewed interiors and amenities with that aim. By March 31 this year, the remaining four rakes of the August Kranti Rajdhani and the Rajdhani will have added interiors at the cost of Rs 50 lakh per rake,” Jain added.
Recently, a UK-based air travel intelligence company recorded the Mumbai-Delhi route as the world’s third busiest route. As many as 47,462 scheduled flights, touted to be the highest, were operated between the two airports in 2017. A Rajdhani has a single first AC coach, five second class AC coaches and 11 third AC coaches. Western Railway plies three Rajdhani trains between Mumbai and Delhi via Surat every week. According to senior railway officials, the second class AC ridership of the train does not match their expectations.
“The second AC ridership of the train is suffering. First AC is still attracting passengers. The additional facilities being provided are aimed to attract patronage in both the first and second class coaches,” Jain said. The railways aims to upgrade the track infrastructure between Mumbai and Delhi to support speed between 160 and 200 km per hour. It will reduce the travel time between the two cities to 12 hours from the current 16 hours.
“Passengers can easily avoid hotel costs while taking an overnight train. It would help them avoid switching airports and booking a hotel and allow a person an entire day to work. A train like Rajdhani gives that opportunity to a passenger. We are trying to build the infrastructure in such a way that
reservation is available for passengers when they need,” Jain added.
Additional AC rakes only by year-end
Mumbai’s suburban railway passengers will get additional AC rakes only by the year-end, officials said. The nine AC rakes from Bharat Heavy Electrical Limited (BHEL), which manufactured the first one, would be procured in the next nine months. “The remaining batch of nine rakes will come in the next 9-10 months. They will have additional features and different configurations from the current AC rake. After the remaining rakes are procured, we can increase the frequency of the AC trains,” Jain said.
From next week, ticket checkers will use hand-held ticket devices that would allow commuters to take tickets while they are inside trains. “The trials have been completed. We can initiate the process from next week. This will ensure better ridership,” Jain added.