Railways to take steps to arrest fall in passenger booking

New Delhi (NDRB):  Worried over decline in passenger bookings, cash-strapped railways have initiated steps like intensified checking against ticketless travel.

“There was a sharp fall (passenger booking) till August.

“But in September and October, we have arrested the fall through intensive ticket checking,” Chairman, Railway Board, (CRB) Arunendra Kumar said on the sidelines of a seminar here.

As far as November and December is concerned, Kumar said, “In these two months it may not be so because the fog has not yet set in.” When pointed out that there has been a decline in passenger booking in November also, he said, “The decline could be due to seasonal variations. As of now, we are confident that whatever has gone down, it will not go down further.”

The total number of passengers booked during April-November was 5,662.38 million compared to 5,695.10 million during the same period last year, showing a decrease of 0.57 per cent.

Passenger service is heavily cross subsidised and a fall in passenger ticket bookings is expected to strain the national transporter further. Currently, subsidy in passenger segment is hovering around Rs 26,000 crore a year.

Asked whether the fall is due to the increased train fare, CRB said, “It was initially thought that people were not buying tickets because of hike in fare. But we have taken adequate action to see that trend got arrested.”

He, however, admitted that improved road connectivity is denting passenger bookings in short distance travel.

“Road connectivity in the short distance has improved in suburban areas and people do not want three-stage hopping like first come by road and then boarding train and again on road for last mile connectivity. People are opting road transport for door-to-door service,” Kumar noted.

To a question whether there is any move to reduce fares on certain sectors to lure road users, he ruled out any such steps, saying, “No such move to reduce fare.”

Speaking on the seminar “Resurgence of transportation and logistics in India”, Kumar said, “Economic development requires inputs from transportation and logistics sector.

“Over the years, no doubt development of various modes of transport and capacity in the logistics sector has improved considerably but still India falls short of having an efficient system which makes these services affordable for both the business and government for proper development of various sectors of the economy,” he said.

The two-day seminar intends to focus on the present and future status of the transport and logistics sector in areas of policy, its implementation and synergy with the national and global economy.