New Delhi: Railway ministry has introduced a slew of changes over the past 12 months to facilitate quality traveling for the passengers, which include alteration of leadership plans for bullet trains, trials to increase the speed of existing trains, station specific cleanliness initiatives.
However, it seems that the public has not been impacted much on the ground level, when it comes high ticket cancellation charges and excessive tatkal fares. A recent survey conducted by an online platform, Local Circles revealed that 74% citizens find the tatkal fares to be extravagant.
Although the premium ticketing category is meant to help people in urgent and emergency situations to get tickets, the high prices leave a hole in the passenger’s pockets.
Moreover, the railway ticket cancellation charges have been a topic of discussion throughout the last year and thousands of complaints have been received in the Railways circle about excessive cancellation charges.
While 80% of respondents stated that the railway ticket cancellation charges have become excessive, only 5% of them found it to be under limits. An earlier survey by the same organisation had also revealed that some passengers also want some amount to be refunded when tickets booked under the Tatkal category are canceled prior to 6 hours before train departure.
Here are the other issues that people encounter while dealing with the Indian Railways:
- Late arrivals and departures have been issues which have haunted Indian railways for decades now. The survey results also confirmed the existence of the said problem as votes from 31% of people suggested that trains were late by 1-6 hours. Citizens have also reported that the timeliness reported by the Railways is not entirely correct and many times the departure/arrival time reported in enquiry systems on web/sms differs from that actual time of the train’s arrival or departure.
- The quality of food onboard trains has been under scanner of and Auditor General of India as it declared the food provided by IRCTC was not fit to be eaten and was unhygienic. In response to this, the IRCTC took steps for the improvement in quality of food. Reportedly, it has pledged Rs. 250 crores to upgrade the pantry cars in trains and make the food served more hygienic. But these steps seems of no avail as only a meagre 4% said that the food was delicious while 31% said it was unhygienic or inedible.
- Railway authorities have taken many steps to improve the safety and security of passengers and reduce accidents. Almost 3400 unmanned level crossings have been eliminated and the process of installing black box on trains to understand the reasons for accidents has also started. However, a majority 44% of the commuters seem to believe that there has been a marginal improvement — when it comes to passenger’s well-being. Moreover, 30% of them found no improvement.
- The ministry also undertook an overhauling of the IRCTC website to make it more user-friendly and also added many new features to it. Although some people have appreciated the changes, many have said that the new website is a little confusing and tough to use, especially for the senior citizens. On being asked what their experience has been in the last few months with the new IRCTC website, 33% of the respondents said it is better than the old website and 46% stated it is worse than the old website.
Railways recently renamed its cleaning staff as ‘housekeeping staff.’ There have been visible improvements in the level of cleanliness on stations and inside trains since the launch of the Swachh Bharat Mission, and it has made train travel a bit more enjoyable. When approached about the overall cleanliness a positive mandate of 38% was reached — wherein people believed that there has been a significant improvement. Additionally, 39% said there has been a marginal improvement.
Long road ahead
The survey mostly highlights the discontent among the commuters in regard to the services offered by the Indian Railways as a whole. Though the transport body has made some improvements in the last 12 months, there is a lot that still needs to be done to bring Indian railways at the same level in some other countries. Amid the cloud of excessive tatkal and ticket cancellation charges, the only silver lining for commuters seems to be the cleanliness initiatives undertaken by the railways.