Before bowing to public and political pressure to roll back the fare hike, the Railways managed to rake in a cool Rs 30 crore in the past few days, as lakhs of commuters descended on ticket counters before the expected price rise
While the rest of us have been wondering where the monsoons have gone, it’s been raining big bucks for the railways.
The big ticket 'sale’: The ticketing area at Currey Road station yesterday was almost as tightly packed as a local train coach during rush hours. Pic/Datta Kumbhar
Between June 21, when passengers started lining up for season passes after the astronomical hike in their cost was announced the previous day, and last evening, when most of it was rolled back, the Central and Western railways earned Rs 30 crore through the sale of passes alone. That’s nearly Rs 7.5 crore a day — a figure that will almost certainly go up when the final count from yesterday comes in.
Money spinner: Serpentine queues for passes have been a regular feature at stations across Mumbai since June 21. Pic/Nimesh Dave
The Central Railway has earned Rs 11.60 crore between June 21 and 23, or nearly Rs 4 crore a day, through the sale of season passes.
Compare it to the usual daily average of Rs 85 lakh and you realise how much of a difference the fare hike announcement made.
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As per figures available till last evening, sale of passes — and thus the earnings — were highest on June 23. CR sold more than 1 lakh passes that day, against the usual average of 40,000 — and raked in Rs 7.99 crore. “We expect the number to be higher for June 24 as the queues at all our stations were very long. Those figures aren’t available yet,” said a senior CR official.
The Western Railway also raked in the moolah. Senior officials from WR said that on an average, 40,000 season passes are sold a day, leading to earnings of close to Rs 1 crore.
Between June 21 and 4 pm yesterday, however, WR earned Rs 16 crore through selling 2.57 lakh passes — that’s an average of Rs 4 crore and 64,000 passes a day. These figures will also increase after the final numbers for yesterday come in.
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“The demand for season passes, especially the half-yearly and yearly ones, has been tremendous,” said a senior WR official.
He added that the season pass sales were highest on June, when as many as 96,900 were sold.
14.2% hike for first class
The Indian Railways announced the partial rollback in the fare hike yesterday. There is likely to be no hike for a distance of up to 80km for second-class season passes — that is the distance between Churchgate and Dahanu on the Western Line and CST and Karjat/Kasara on the central line.
Beyond this, there will be a hike of 14.2%, which was the increase announced for long distance trains on June 20.
The same 14.2% hike — which includes 4.2% of fuel adjustment cost — will come into effect for first-class season pass holders. The detailed calculations are yet to be made and the hike will be applicable from June 28. For long distance trains, however, the hike will come into effect from today, as scheduled.
Rs 11.6 cr: Amount earned by Central Railway from June 21-23
Rs 16 cr: Amount earned by Western Railway from June 21-24
40,000: Approx number of passes Western and Central Railways each sell on a normal day
June 28: The day the revised fares will come into effect for the Mumbai suburban network
Can the hours spent in queues be rolled back?
With no way of knowing that a partial rollback would be announced in the evening, commuters queued up from 6 am to get their passes made on the last day before the hike kicked in
In what may seem, in hindsight, like a cruel joke played on them, thousands of people queued up for hours at railway ticket counters yesterday, the last day to get their season passes renewed before the fare hike kicked in.
The commuters, who had no way of knowing that the railway ministry would announce a partial rollback in the evening, lined up from 6 am. Though the queues were short at that time of the day, they grew progressively longer until people had to wait for more than an hour for their turn.
Even railway stations that don’t usually see a crowd during the non-peak hours saw huge crowds at the ticket counters. Stations like Lower Parel, Santacruz, Currey Road, Sion and Chinchpokli were among those that saw a heavy rush.
Since the ticket counters for season passes and normal card tickers were the same, chaos began to prevail. Frustrated by the long wait, people’s tempers frayed and arguments broke out both among the commuters themselves and between them and the ticketing staff.
Ticketing staff at several stations were attending to those who wanted first-class passes first, and this led to the other commuters shouting at them. Some were even seen arguing with the police constables at the stations. A man at Bandra station, who had been standing in the queue for almost two hours, shouted, “These are the good days?”
Some commuters even tried to jump the queue, but were set right by angry shouts from those in line, while some others decided to give up and go home after standing in the queue for an hour.
Darshan Mehta, Borivli resident
Fearing the fare hike, I got my yearly pass done. Now it disappoints me to know that it has been rolled back.
Joel Thottan, Borivli resident
I couldn’t make my pass due to shortage of time and now since there won’t be a fare hike, I feel relieved.
Sunil Kamath, Santacruz, student
I had no idea this would happen. I got up early in the morning just to get my pass done. It now feels like a total waste of time.
Rohit Raut, Goregaon resident
I got my pass renewed with a lot of difficulty by waiting for an hour in the long queue. Either they shouldn’t have decided this or once decided they should have stuck to it.
Yogesh Dongre, Ghatkopar resident
Rising prices are not an issue for me until and unless I see adequate results. If the government is providing us with the facilities I wouldn’t mind paying.
Ajay Abhayankar, Chembur resident
Railways have not yet announced anything regarding the withdrawal of the hike, however, it will still be helpful to us in future if the fares go up, but in return we expect good facilities.