Promotions, free rides in luxury trains hurting Indian Railways
Complimentary travel on luxury trains offered to officials and promotions are weighing on the already loss-making Indian Railways.
Indian Railways’ losses jumped 7 percent year-on-year to Rs 1.9 lakh crore in FY19, as per the Union Budget document.
Free rides on luxury trains is a wastage of public money, a Parliamentary panel said. It also recommended that the ministry conduct a survey to analyse if railways were any way benefiting from the exercise.
The Parliamentary panel listed the names of 153 passengers who travelled for free on the recommendations of officials of the Railway Board and Indian Railway Catering & Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) on five luxury trains, according to a report by Hindustan Times.
Railways runs five luxury trains: Maharaja Express, Golden Chariot, Royal Rajasthan on Wheels, Deccan Odyssey and Palace on Wheels. However, it is widely known that these trains have an occupancy of just 30 percent.
As per the report, 250 passengers travelled on the Maharaja Express alone between 2012 and 2016. The fares for these travels were around $ 500-650 (about Rs 35,500-46,150 as per the current dollar-rupee exchange rate). A rough estimate suggests that the complimentary tickets offered in Maharaja Express alone accounted for a loss of Rs 89.81 lakh, it added.
In the case of Palace on Wheels, 230 passengers were given free tickets between 2012 and 2016, resulting in a loss of about Rs 81.65 lakh.
“The cost of complimentary travel has been borne by railways, which further adds to the losses of railways and is a gross wastage of public money,” the committee said in its action-taken report tabled in Parliament on February 7.
The committee added that despite using complimentary travel as a marketing tool for the promotion of luxury trains since 2012-2013, there has been no significant rise or improvement in either occupancy or revenue generation of these trains.
Last year, a standing committee on railways headed by Trinamool Congress MP Sudip Bandyopadhyay had recommended that the tradition of such complimentary tickets be discontinued. To this, the Railways replied that complimentary tickets are permitted for senior officials for inspection purpose, while others are provided the same for promotion purposes as a marketing tool.
Apart from asking the Ministry of Railways to conduct a study on benefits achieved through these complimentary tickets, the committee has recommended the ministry to frame stringent guidelines for issue of these complimentary tickets to prevent possible misuse of public money.
With inputs from PTI