Easter, Vishu (celebrated as New Year by Keralites) and school summer vacations might be three months away, but finding a reserved ticket in most trains to Kerala from Bengaluru has already become an uphill task.
A status check by indianexpress.com on irctc.co.in, the online ticket reservation portal of the Indian Railways, indicated waiting lists on most trains from Bengaluru to major stations in Kerala, such as Kochuveli, Thiruvananthapuram Central, Kannur, Ernakulam and Kozhikode.
“This has become usual these days, as important festivals and school summer vacations coincide,” Rejikumar, general secretary of Kerala Samajam (Bangalore), said.
A large number of passengers have already booked tickets for Kerala between April 8 and 10, when the long weekend begins. While Maundy Thursday and Good Friday this year fall on April 9 and 10 respectively, April 11 happens to be a second Saturday. Easter and Vishu are on April 12 and 14 respectively.
“While an estimated 13 to 16 lakh Malayalis reside in Bengaluru — including a floating population of students and job-seekers — the number of train services available to the neighbouring state is still minimal,” Rejikumar said.
He added that special trains turn out to be a temporary solution in such situations. “We have decided to apprise local MPs and the Bengaluru Divisional Railway Manager (DRM) about this, requesting them to announce the special trains at least a month before the dates,” he said.
“Once train tickets are sold out, we are left with no option but to take overpriced tickets in private buses,” Sucheta K, a school teacher said.
Rovin J, a software engineer hailing from Thiruvananthapuram, said, “Trips to my hometown are mostly planned during the summer break as it helps us travel together as a family, including my children who are school students. However, most tickets have been sold out like hotcakes. Sleeper-class (SL) train tickets cost less than half of any bus ticket for the same trip.”
While a sleeper-class ticket from Bengaluru to Kochuveli in Thiruvananthapuram is priced at Rs 465, the cheapest bus ticket (in services provided by Kerala and Karnataka Road Transport Corporations) costs over Rs 1,100.
When contacted, Bengaluru DRM Ashok Kumar Verma said special trains will be run as usual to help passengers travel during festive seasons. “Generally, we try to announce special trains a month or two in advance, but this is subject to availability of rake, platforms, and routes, apart from approval from higher authorities. However, meetings are held at regular intervals to identify demand and to avoid passenger rush towards the locations concerned, according to the season,” he said.
The cheapest flights to Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi, and Kozhikode from Bengaluru during the same timeframe range from Rs 2,100 to Rs 2,800, if booked months in advance.