New ‘flexi’ fares on Indian trains anger citizens

Indian railways remain a popular way to travel
Indian railways remain a popular way to travel

A DECISION by Indian Railways to bring in “flexi fares” on three of its premium train services has been denounced on Indian social media.

It has been announced that for tickets for the Rajdhani, Shatabdi and Duronto express services, only the first 10 percent would be held at current prices. Thereafter there would be increases of 10 percent for every 10 percent of berths sold, subject to a cap of 1.5 times the basic fare.

Critics have called it a poorly disguised fare hike. India’s heavily subsidized railway service is the third largest network in the world, carrying some 23 million people daily. But it operates at a huge loss – in 2014 reportedly losing $5bn in its passenger operations.

Indian Railways’ three premium services are in high demand since they cover most of the country and are faster and more comfortable than its regular trains.

But the new fare structure is seen as likely to make many journeys by rail more expensive than flights on India’s low-cost airlines, which cover much the same routes in a fraction of the time.

There was overwhelming anger on social media networks like Twitter at what was seen as a policy that would primarily have an impact on the middle class and the poor, with the hashtag #SurgePricing trending for much of Thursday (September 8) morning.

Many Twitter users urged India’s railways minister Suresh Prabhu and its prime minister Narendra Modi to reconsider the planned changes.