Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Railways and rationale

Back in 2001-2002, I was working in a cement manufacturing plant in a remote place and was actively looking for another job. In those days, I used to travel a lot for attending interviews and had to think on my feet regarding travel mode and means. That was because the place was remote and most often the travel was unplanned. So, I had a wonderful train schedule book from Indian Railways at hand always. Besides train timings, it had a comprehensive description of railway rules regarding payments, discounts, refunds etc., It made an interesting read for me while waiting in railway stations. And I admired the thought behind many such rules. One such was an option called "telescoping." The gist of the rule is this: if you've booked tickets on a train for travelling from point A to point B and you want to extend the travel to point C, you just need to pay the difference in fare between travel AC and AB and not the fare for BC, which could be substantially higher than the difference. Of course, this is subject to the availability of berths for travel between B and C. Fair enough.

Much recently, armed with the above knowledge, I decided to use the facility to extend our travel from Bangalore to Madurai upto Kovilpatti. I kept awake until 2 AM waiting for the Travelling Ticket Examiner to board our coach in Erode. That is when he told that "telescoping" facility has recently been scrapped and I need to take the tickets for the remaining travel from Madurai railway station. Even though the travel between Madurai and Kovilpatti was during the day and we were simply seated, we ended up paying a heavy sum as they would charge for berths. Similarly, there's a minimum fare to be paid even though the distance between Madurai and Kovilpatti is far shorter for that. More than the displeasure of having to pay a heavy sum, my disappointment at the scrapping of a rule that was based on sound rationale was immense. I was wondering how a "smart" person like our Railway Minister could've done this. This incident followed with more reports of change in rules like the introduction of a "cut" in the refund at the cancellation of even waitlisted tickets. On more thought, I realised that it's a clever ploy by the minister to increase the revenue without appearing "unpeople-friendly" as these technical rule changes would not get as much focus and press coverage as a raise in fares during a railway budget.


Blogger Vivek said...

Smart Observation.

February 17, 2006 4:47 AM  
Blogger Sundar said...

Thanks Vivek.

February 17, 2006 9:18 AM  
Blogger Doctor Bruno said...

Being another frequent traveller, i too observed the same phenomenon for the past few years - that is increasing the revenues without evoking attention

Few more rules

1. Tatkal should be booked from the starting place to the end place of the train journey (and not our journey)

2. THe rate for Tatkal has been raised

March 15, 2006 6:23 PM  
Blogger Sundar said...

Yes, Doctor Bruno. You're right about TatKal .

March 15, 2006 6:30 PM  

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