Railways show 50 percent jump in AC booking due to airfare hike

August 15th, 2008 - 12:55 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Aug 15 (IANS) The steep rise in airfares has given a major boost to Indian Railways, which has seen bookings in air-conditioned (AC) coaches rise more than 50 percent. The railways carried 5.97 million passengers in AC coaches in July this year, compared to four million bookings in July 2007, an increase of almost 50 percent.

Rajdhani and Shatabdi trains alone have witnessed about 52 percent jump in bookings this July, as compared to tickets sold in July last year.

In the western zone, which had lost the maximum number of passengers to low cost airlines, passengers are now returning to train travel.

Western Railway saw bookings in July rise by about 53 percent.

“Travellers who had earlier shifted from second AC and third AC to low-cost airlines are now coming back to the railways, owing to the rise in airfares in the past few months,” a railway official said.

Rahul Taneja, an official with online travel agency yatra.com, felt the same way.

“When low-cost flights were introduced, many people who travelled by AC-II and AC-III went for air travel, as they were inexpensive. Now with the increase in airfare, they have reverted to train travel.”

July, which is otherwise considered a lean month, has seen a 50 percent rise in AC bookings.

Of this, third AC bookings were the maximum, having gone up from two million to almost 3.3 million.

However, the increase in the bookings for non-AC sleeper class is just 24 percent, the official said.

The rush for AC bookings has boosted the revenues of Indian Railways. Earning from Rajdhani alone has shot up from Rs.64 million in July 2007 to Rs.98 million this July.

“The increase in airfares is not the only reason why people are choosing our premier trains. We have also taken measures to increase passenger comfort and cater to the increased demand by adding extra coaches,” said Northern Railway spokesperson S. Negi.

Facilities such as electronic ticketing, automatic upgrade of reserved tickets and improved passenger amenities in Rajdhani and Shatabdi have also attracted passengers.

Private players have been roped in to provide services such as cleaning of train floors, stocking of soaps and towels in toilets, and looking after passenger needs.

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