How Mumbaikars can beat the railway fare hike
The Railways may have dropped a bomb on local train commuters but, fortunately, its timer won’t go off till Wednesday, June 25. This gives you two clear days today and tomorrow to jostle with a huge surge of your fellow commuters and get your hands on your season pass before it becomes worth its weight in gold.
Serpentine queues were seen across railway stations over the weekend. This was the scene at Mahalaxmi station yesterday. Pic/Sayed Sameer Abedi
Sample this: A Churchgate-Dahanu or Kasara-CST yearly first-class pass will cost you Rs 18,792 if you get it by tomorrow. Come Thursday, however, and the same pass will cost you Rs 41,688 or Rs 23,000 more (enough to buy an AC or a fancy smartphone).
The ticket counters at Churchgate saw serpentine queues for season passes yesterday. Pic/Emmanual Karbhari
Many commuters, and the Railways, have already figured this out. Saturday and Sunday saw serpentine queues at the ticket counters, with many deciding to switch from their monthly and quarterly season passes to the half-yearly and yearly ones. Some of them, in fact, had almost a month left for their passes to run out.
“On Saturday and Sunday, at least 50% more people had come down to renew their season passes. Many still had over 25 days remaining for their passes to expire,” said a CR official.
Officials in WR said that the daily average of people buying half-yearly and yearly season passes is 100 and 50 respectively. On Saturday, 1,650 bought half-yearly passes and 1,450 people bought yearly ones.
In a desperate bid to safeguard its potential revenue, the Railways made an internal announcement for its ticket counter staff, asking them to calculate the existing fare until June 24 and then applying the new fare from June 25 while issuing season passes. It had to withdraw this directive, however, after the staff members themselves protested.
What to expect
Railway authorities are expecting heavy rush at counters on Monday and Tuesday as well. Officials said they are expecting a huge surge in the number of people buying passes and arrangements are being made by both Western and Central railways.
“We will keep most of the ticket windows operational,” said Mukesh Nigam, divisional railway manager (Mumbai) of the Central Railway, which has nearly 840 ticket windows across its network.
“Wherever needed, extra ticket windows will be opened for season pass holders,” said Shailendra Kumar, divisional railway manager (Mumbai) of the Western Railway, which has 560 ticket windows.
All staff members involved in issuance of tickets, checking tickets and other commercial duties at railway stations have been asked to remain present.
“Passengers who wish to purchase or renew season tickets up to, but excluding, June 25 will get them at the existing fare,” said Narendra Patil, chief PRO, Central Railway.
“If a commuter buys season passes monthly, quarterly, half-yearly or yearly before June 25, existing rates will be applicable” said Sharat Chandrayan, chief PRO, Western Railway.
There have been fare hikes for rickshaws, taxis and now local trains as well. A day will come when middle-class people like me will spend almost our entire income on our daily commute. The government needs to look into the matter and understand the plight of the aam aadmi.
For senior citizens like me, surviving on our pensions and limited income will be nearly impossible now. As it is, there is hardly any money left after spending on medicines, grocery and other household items. Local trains used to be the only cheap transportation option, and even that is gone.
If the authorities are increasing the fares, how about providing some basic but much-needed facilities as well? You are herded in like cattle in local train coaches, and now you are expected to pay through your noses for the ‘privilege’.
A hike in railway fares translates to a rise in the prices of vegetables and other commodities as well. Every middle-class household’s monthly budget will now go for a toss.
The hike is completely acceptable if it is used to provide facilities and improve the railway network, rather than lining pockets.