This weekend, the Central Railway offered the common man an uncommon opportunity to be part of history and hop on for the country’s last ever DC train journey – for a cool Rs 10,000 per ticket. As expected, not a single ticket was sold.
A front-page report in this paper on Friday had questioned the logic behind charging such a humungous sum for a ride on the rickety, old train. The CR had announced that at long last, the Harbour line would be converted from the 1,500-volt Direct Current system to the 25,000-volt Alternating Current system and the DC train would make its final journey from Kurla to CST on April 9. The CR touted this as a historic ride, and this is true, but by charging so much, they simply priced the experience out of the reach of the common man. Either they had overestimated the tug and lure of history, or were simply myopic in thinking that Rs 10,000 would not be too much to pay.
The authorities should have thought of a better way to bid goodbye and put deeper and more careful consideration into it. It’s true, in a nation where government bodies are often accused of being insensitive to history, the railways had, at least, thought of the historical import of this event. The CR even planned to use the money collected to help drought-hit areas. However, the good intentions should have been backed by solid logic.
Even railway enthusiasts would find it tough to shell out R10,000 for a train ride home. Even after the announcement, the authorities could have read the signs and changed their plans. Within hours, they got several calls with people saying they were hard pressed to pay that much. Even then, they could have cut prices and offered discounts to senior citizens. None of this was done, which resulted in zero tickets being sold.
This was a prime example of how a great idea and good intentions can go to seed because of myopic planning. Not only were the drought-hit farmers deprived of some much-needed relief, but citizens have been robbed of a historical opportunity.