Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Travel India: Sense and nonsense of air and train fares

My travel these days is mostly between Chennai and Cochin. Usually I go by train, Second Class AC lower berth. It is a comfortable overnight journey. But on 17th of this month I had to fly to Cochin and return by train, Third Class AC because no other tickets were available.

During the comparatively long (one and a half hours) ATR flight to Cochin I had a look at the fare structure given on the printout ticket. The break up is: Base fare 1860, Fuel surcharge 2350, Air traffic congestion fee (whatever that means) 150, and something marked WO, 225. Total Rs.4585. Quite steep, I must say. The concession senior citizens used to enjoy, is no longer there.

I had to shell out that much money because of a faux pas. I had asked for ticket by Trivandrum Mail. The departure time of this train from Chennai Central is 8.15 P.M. Just before starting for the railway station I had a look at the ticket and was mortified to find that it was for Trivandrum Express leaving at 4.15 P.M.! I had to book an air ticket online. The moral: always check the ticket as soon as you receive it.

Now, about the train fare. My return ticket was reserved on Tatkal system. In this procedure, after the allotted quota for regular booking is taken up, one can obtain a berth by paying a hefty fee. The more the seats apportioned for Tatkal, the more money the railways make. The total number of seats on the train remains the same.

There is some unfairness about Tatkal. It does not differentiate between senior citizens and others. Everybody pays the same. The very concept of special consideration for the elders is nullified.

Last month onward journey by 2 AC from Chennai to Cochin booked through Tatkal, cost me Rs.1376. For return, again by 2AC, reserved from regular quota was only Rs.795. This month, for return from Cochin by 3AC, booked through Tatkal, the fare was Rs.1093. This does not make sense to me.

Tatkal arrangement could be useful in situations where one has to travel urgently on short notice. But it should not be used as a profit making procedure. Only a minimum number of seats should be kept apart for Tatkal. Again, a just fare structure would be: regular charge minus senior citizen concession plus Tatkal fees.

I hope the Railways would look into this.

Also see:

Bangalore: Flying in, flying out

The romance of railways


Swarna said...

True, I felt the same way as you do about the tatkal scheme. It is unfair, and is more a money-spinning venture for the Railways than a help for last minute necessities.
Now the Rly minister says that he's worried about rising crude prices. Wonder how his worry will get translated to the passenger, directly or deviously!

Nebu said...

The tatkal fares are calculated from the train source station to its destination station whereas the regular fare is from each traveller’s originating station to his/her destination. Of course tatkal is a money spinning venture of the railways but thank your stars for Lallu not getting the idea of putting the tatkal seats up for auctioning to the highest bidder.
If you are travelling from Chennai to Kerala on a Sunday let me point out another blunder that could befall.
On Sundays there are two trains with the same name “Trivandrum Express” and almost similar nos. 2695 & 2697 departing from Chennai Central within a gap of 0.45 minutes. Both these trains are parked at the sprawling Chennai Central around the same time and if you are in a hurry, on a bad day you could end up boarding the wrong “Trivandrum Express”!
It happened to me once and for not starting sufficiently early I got a mouthful from my ‘bitter half’. So be warned, double check the train No. and platform No. on Sundays if you are travelling by the “Trivandrum Express”

Abraham Tharakan said...

swarna, thank you for the comment.

Abraham Tharakan said...

Thanks Nebu. I must really remember this.


Tatkal fares are logic defying!

kallu said...

Very valid point. It does seem unfair that you pay more for 3 Ac than by 2 Ac because of tatkal.

The railways seem to keep more and more tickets for tatkal.
This morning I was trying to book tickets - online - by tatkal of course for deepavali and the system wouldn't work at all for 30 minutes.
They are still offline about tickets from and to Chennai, 2 hours later.

Checking tickets immediately is a good tip. Alas, one learnt only by experience:-)

Maddy said...

i remember when we went this time to kerala, we were worried about getting ticktes and then my brother was telling me not to worry & that we can possibly get it in tatkal. but trying to figure out how the system works took a while though..

Abraham Tharakan said...

Raji, unfortunately there is nothing much we can do about it.

Abraham Tharakan said...

Kallu I hope that you finally managed to get the tickets and are having a nice holiday.

Abraham Tharakan said...

Maddy, I am also not sure how the system works. There was some talk about auctioning off the ticket but I don't know whether that has been introduced.

Nebu said...

The comptroller and Auditor General of India (Vinod Rai I.A.S. of Kerala Cadre) in his latest report has severely criticised the Indian Railways for increasing the profits through backdoor tariff methods like tatkal reservations and increase in reservation and cancellation charges, when the railway budget claim that passenger fares and freight charges are not being increased!

The CAG report says that the tatkal reservation contributed Rs. 211 crores into the railway coffers. The tatkal reservation charges were increased from Rs. 50/- to Rs.300/- for AC and to Rs.150/- for the sleeper class!

Abraham Tharakan said...

Nebu, thank you for the information on the CAG Report.