Passengers can now heave a sigh of relief following the decision of the Indian Railways to revise its flexi-fare system. Unlike earlier, where peak fares were capped at 1.5 times the base fare, it will now stand at 1.4 times (the base fare), according to the Financial Express.
Moreover, this surge pricing system will no longer apply to trains with less than 50% average monthly occupancy in the last financial year.
“While the surge pricing system will now not be applicable on 15 premium trains completely and in 32 such trains during lean periods (February, March and August), the capping of the peak fare will be applicable on 101 trains,” reported the Financial Express.
These changes in the flexi-fare system from the advanced reservation period will be tested for six months, and depending on how it fares, the ministry will take the necessary corrective measures.
Back in 2016, the Centre had introduced this surge pricing system in 168 trains including those in the premium class like Shatabdi and Rajdhani, according to which the base fare would rise 10% with every 10% of the seats being booked by customers around the country.
Unfortunately, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India took exception to this system. In a report tabled in Parliament, the CAG said that the system had caused a fall in occupancy across all classes except the sleeper class in the Duronto trains.
Even the AC-3 class category—the only one turning a profit for the Railways—saw a drop in occupancy as a result of this system, according to the CAG.
“Vacant berths increased from 0.66% in [the] pre-flexi period to 4.46% in [the] post-flexi period,” the CAG had said. “In terms of absolute numbers, the Premier trains carried 2,40,79,899 passengers during [the] post-flexi period as compared to 2,47,36,469 passengers during [the] pre-flexi period. There was de-growth of 2.65% despite the availability of a higher number of births/seats, which resulted in sub-optimal utilisation of national assets,” the report added.
The Centre’s actions are a response to the CAG’s concerns, but whether the CAG finds merit in the Centre’s actions remains to be seen.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)