Diwali bonanza for Indian Railways passengers! Railway Minister Piyush Goyal is all set to give a Diwali gift to passengers by deciding to partially scrap the flexi-fare scheme. A source in the know-how of the matter told Financial Express Online that Goyal is likely to take the decision today itself, ahead of the Diwali and Chhath puja rush that Indian Railways sees. The revised flexi-fare scheme is expected to have features such as up to 50% discount on last minute bookings made up to 4 days of the journey date and graded discount scheme up tp 20% for trains that have utilisation less than 50%, learns Financial Express Online. “The idea is to the strike a balance and address grievances of passengers. On routes where the utilisation is low, we will offer competitive fares so that the occupancy goes up and it is a win-win situation for both the passengers and Indian Railways,” the source added.
The flexi-fare or dynamic pricing scheme was first introduced by the national transporter in September 2016 for 142 premium trains – 52 Duronto Express, 44 Rajdhani Express and 46 Shatabdi Express trains. While the flexi-fare scheme may be scrapped for as many as 40 trains, for the remaining 102 trains, discounts may be offered. Under the flexi-fare system, the fare of the trains increases by 10% for every 10% of seats or berths being booked. A fare cap of 140% and 150% respectively is maintained for AC-III tier and all classes except Executive Chair car and First AC.
The flexi-fare scheme of Indian Railways has faced criticism from not only the passengers but also the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India. In a recent report the CAG had noted that while the revenue collection of the national transporter has gone up after the introduction of flexi-fares, the total number of passengers travelling has actually gone down! The CAG also noted that on many routes air fares were cheaper compared to train ticket prices post introduction of flexi-fare. The auditor had recommended the need to rationalise the scheme and make it more demand based for routes where occupancy is high.
Financial Express Online had first reported in September 2018 about the national transporter working on steps to dilute the flexi-fare scheme. A decision to offer discounts and partially scrap the flexi-fare system, as early as today and just ahead of the festive season rush, would be a welcome step for passengers.