New Delhi: Under a flexible base fare structure, the entire fare mechanism would have become an ‘open ended ‘one which means that there would be no limit on how high the price of a ticket could reach.
The flexi-fare hike system implemented for the Rajdhani, Duronto and Shatabdi trains are fairly steep and will surely pinch the pockets of commuters but a small mercy is that the powers-that-be spared making the base fare itself flexible.
Under a flexible base fare structure, the entire fare mechanism would have become an ‘open ended ‘one which means that there would be no limit on how high the price of a ticket could reach. “Imagine if on Friday the base fare of the 3rd AC of Rajdhani is Rs.3,000. It means the maximum fare would be Rs.4,500 considering that from the 6th bucket of tickets, the price of the ticket would 1.5 times the base fare. However if the base price itself fluctuates and say on Saturday becomes Rs.4,000, then the maximum fare would be Rs.6000 from the 6th bucket. This would mean that just between two days, the price of a ticket has actually risen a complete 100 percent from Rs.3,000 to Rs.6,000. That would be a loot,” said an official.
This kind of flexibility was the reason the earlier premium train fare structure had to be withdrawn in July 2015 after its inherent lack of logic became clear to the railways. Singularly the most unfair aspect of the fare structure of the premium system was that all classes of a premium train – like 2AC, 3AC and Sleeper, were calculated as separate units as per the formula that decided what would the base price for a particular day or time of booking.
Since in all trains the highest number of people would be vying for the lower classes- a hallmark of almost all developing economies- this ‘independent’ class structure formula created a situation where the cost of 3AC tickets crossed that of the 2AC ones. For example, if 20 people are vying for a 2AC ticket costing Rs.1,500 and 30 people for a 3AC ticket costing Rs.1,000, the computer formula would decide that the demand for 3AC tickets had reached its peak and would promptly increase the price of 3AC tickets to the maximum Rs.3,000- that is three times the fare. The same formula would decide that the demand for 2AC tickets was still away from peaking and would set its price at Rs.2,000. So illogically, there would be hundreds of passengers on the train who bought 3AC tickets at Rs.3,000 and others who travelled in 2AC on tickets at Rs.2,000.
Cloaked in absolute secrecy, the fare formula of the premium train was set in a ‘take it or leave it’ manner on the IRCTC website every day. Most railways officials are unaware of the nitty-gritty of how the formula for the day’s fare was calculated.