NEW DELHI: Minister of Railways Suresh Prabhakar Prabhu inaugurated expansion of VIKALP scheme into other sectors with effect from 1st April 2017. Presently the services of VIKALP is available for eTickets only.
Chairman, Railway Board, Shri A. K. Mital, Member Traffic Shri Mohd Jamshed, Member Engineering Shri AK Mittal, Member Rolling Stock Shri Ravindra Gupta, Member Staff Shri Pradeep Kumar and other Railway Board Members and senior officials were also be present on the occasion.
Occupancy pattern of reserved accommodation in Indian Railways is not uniform. It varies over peak and lean periods, sector to sector and also over different types of trains. While there is vacant accommodation in some trains, in other trains on the same sector passengers remain waitlisted and unable to travel and Railway has to refund the ticket fare to such passengers i.e. losing on two fronts – on one hand berth going vacant in a train, on other Railways are granting refund to waitlist passengers on the same sector.
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To avoid accommodation going vacant in different classes of a train an upgradation scheme was introduced in 2006 wherein passengers of lower class are upgraded against vacant accommodation available in upper class without realization of difference of fare. However, there was no scheme to take care of upgradation/transfer across different trains running between the same Origin – Destination pairs.
To meet this requirement Alternate Train Accommodation Scheme (ATAS) was conceptualized and introduced in November 2015 under the name “VIKALP” where an optional facility was given to shift passengers remaining waitlisted irrespective of booking quota and concession at the time of charting in the booked train to be given confirmed berth in an alternate train which was leaving within a specified time gap. Initially this scheme was introduced on Delhi-Jammu and Delhi – Lucknow sectors with a limited scope of transferring the passengers across Mail/Express/Superfast trains only for passengers with e-tickets booked through internet. Fully Waitlisted passengers opted for VIKALP should check PNR status after charting. Either all passengers of a PNR or none will be transferred to alternate train in same class.
VIKALP opted passengers who have been provided accommodation in the alternate train will not figure in the waitlisted charts of their original train. The passenger allotted alternate accommodation can travel in the alternate train on authority of original ticket. Waitlisted passengers of original train shall not be allowed to board the original train if allotted alternate accommodation. If found travelling, they will be treated as travelling without ticket and charged accordingly. Passengers once provided alternate accommodation in alternate train will be treated as normal passengers in alternate train and will be eligible for upgradation. In rare situations, passengers who have been provided alternate accommodation might get dropped/re-allotted in alternate train due to last minute change in composition of the alternate train at the time of chart preparation.
Passenger will also get SMS alert on their Registered mobile phone number about getting confirmed alternate accommodation. When an ATAS opted passenger opts to cancel, after he/she has been given an alternate accommodation, he/she will be treated as a CONFIRMED passenger and the cancellation rules will apply accordingly. Once an ATAS passenger has been allotted alternate accommodation, journey modification will not be permitted. If required, the passenger will have to cancel the ticket and book a fresh ticket for modified journey. When a passenger who has been allotted alternate accommodation has not performed his journey in the alternate train, he can claim for refunds by filing a TDR request.
The scheme was subsequently reviewed and in April 2016 it was extended to five more sectors i.e. Delhi-Howrah, Delhi-Mumbai, Delhi-Chennai, Delhi-Bangalore and Delhi- Secunderabad sectors. This was implemented from May 2016. The scope of the scheme was limited to similar category of trains. The passengers could not be shifted across all categories of trains. The feedback of the scheme was not encouraging due to this limitation.
From 1st April 2017, the Vikalp/ATAS scheme is being further expanded to provide shifting the waiting list passengers of one train across all categories of trains without realization of any difference of fare or grant of refund as the case may be. Thus a passenger booked in a normal Mail/Express train can be shifted to an alternate Mail/Express, Rajdhani, Humsafar, Duronto, Shatabdi, Special train or Suvidha train in the same class of accommodation or vice versa subject to opting for this scheme.
The rationale behind allowing this facility is that the reserved accommodation is a perishable commodity and once a train leaves a platform with a vacant seat/berth, the potential revenue is lost to railways. This is expected to optimize berth utilization across all trains, carry more passengers as well as increase earnings by reducing refunds of waitlisted tickets. The expanded “VIKALP” scheme will be available on e-tickets to start with but will be extended to PRS tickets as well.