Dwindling punctuality figures and a spate of mishaps earlier this year notwithstanding, business seems to be looking up for Indian Railways. The Railways is witnessing a healthy reversal of trend eight months into this fiscal, after losing passengers to other modes of transport for three consecutive fiscal years since 2013-14 and registering lukewarm growth last year.
Between April 1 and November 20 this year, the national transporter has managed to grow its passenger numbers by 6.58 per cent over the numbers achieved by this time last fiscal in the reserved, long-distance category. That is 21 million more passengers in this segment. The growth in this segment was around 3.8 per cent till November last year when compared with the numbers between April and November 2015.
For all passenger segments taken together — long-distance reserved, unreserved and suburban local train networks — the national transporter has managed to add 50 million passengers this fiscal, or around 1 per cent growth over the same period last fiscal. And all this has translated into extra earnings of Rs 1,579.22 crore.
Break-up of the passenger business reveals that First AC, the most expensive travel option on Indian Railways, registered 8.53 per cent growth in number of passengers this fiscal compared with last fiscal. This elite segment’s share in total ridership figures has also increased marginally from 0.61 per cent to 0.63 per cent by November 20 this year. This is a growth by 1.6 lakh passengers.
The most popular class of travel, AC III tier, carried 9.68 per cent more passengers compared to this period last fiscal. The growth in the same class by November 2016 over the same period the previous year was 5.9 per cent. AC-III tier carried the highest, or 17.37 per cent of all reserved passengers, up by around 1 per cent over last year’s numbers. AC II tier, whose ticket prices at times match or even exceed those of low-cost airlines operating in similar sectors, has clocked 6.66 per cent growth in ridership. The number of passengers in non-AC sleeper class increased by about 4.7 per cent.
In September 2016, Railways introduced its “Flexi Fare” dynamic pricing system for reserved classes. This was criticised on the ground that it was taking the train fares of AC-I, II and even III of several sectors above low-cost airlines. According to officials, the growth in passenger numbers is a kind of vindication that the market is now more receptive towards the flexi-fare system.
“We have managed to add more passengers. We have not altered fares, neither have we run any major new products. So we attribute this growth to an increase in efficiency of service,” Mohammad Jamshed, Railway Board Member (Traffic), told The Indian Express.
In 2016-17, Railways saw a modest growth of 1.4 per cent in passenger numbers over the previous year after witnessing negative growth for three straight years. Ministry estimates the final growth figures will overtake that by the end of this fiscal. The suburban sector, or local train services, has also seen a healthy growth, especially in Mumbai network. Overall, suburban sector has seen 2.47 per cent growth in numbers across India.
Delhi HC seeks railways’ reply on water quality
Delhi High Court passed an interim order Monday asking the railways why it does not follow a water testing standard prevalent in rest of the country.
Hearing a PIL filed by Prashant Bhushan’s Centre for PIL, Justices Geeta Mittal and C Hari Shankar ordered Railway Ministry to reply why its drinking water couldn’t adhere to Indian Standard Code of the Bureau of Indian Standards.
Railways follows the age-old Indian Railway Medical Manual (IRMM) standard to test water quality. The contention is that IRMM 2000 standard does not take into account presence of bacterial contamination like e-coliform bacteria, which indicates presence of human and animal excreta.
“The basic flaw in the Railways’ water quality monitoring protocols is that even if test shows that TCB (Total coliform Bacteria) is present, which is an indication that water could be unsafe, the Railways still allow the supply to continue,” the plea said.