Commuters rush for season tickets to beat steep fare hike

Written By Unknown on Minggu, 22 Juni 2014 | 22.23

MUMBAI: As hundreds of Mumbai's train commuters queued up at railway stations across the city on Saturday to buy season tickets to beat the fare hike that comes into effect on June 25, railway officials were busy thinking up steps to stop this surge.

Sources said railway officials were worried about the possible loss of revenue if the trend continued over the next three days. Chief commercial manager for Central Railway R D Sharma said they may charge the difference in the fare later from commuters who were buying season tickets now. How this would be done, however, is unclear.

A Western Railway official, though, said any such move would be illegal. "There are no instructions from the Railway Board to us," the official said.

Such a move is also likely to cause greater disquiet among the city's commuters who are angry about the unprecedented fare hike.

The prices of suburban railway season tickets have been doubled, and in some cases trebled, with the government on Friday not only announcing an across-the-board fare hike of 14.2% but also tweaking the formula for computing the season ticket fare. It will now calculate the monthly ticket fare on 30 single journeys instead of the earlier 15-journeys formula.

Nearly 55 lakh of the 75 lakh commuters who use Mumbai's suburban network every day hold season tickets.

Long queues of commuters were seen at Churchgate, CST, Andheri, Borivli, Ghatkopar, Thane and Kalyan on Saturday, a day when crowds at booking offices are usually lean.

As commuters rushed in large numbers to get season tickets to beat the steep fare hike, chief commercial manager for Central Railway R D Sharma said another option to recover the difference was to issue season tickets in two parts, where one component would have the pre-June 25 fare structure and a separate receipt would be issued for the period after June 25. But a Western Railway official pointed out that no instruction has come from the Railway Board to recover the difference.

On an average, 1,500 season tickets are sold at Churchgate every day, but a booking official said the figure would be much higher for Saturday. "The queue for booking season tickets is long even though most offices in this part of the city are closed," he said.

At CST, there was considerable confusion in the morning with the authorities saying they would issue only monthly season tickets. The issue was later clarified by the authorities who claimed that quarterly, half-yearly or yearly tickets could not be issued for some time because of work on network upgradation that was under way.

Commuters in queues were seen discussing the quantum and impact of the fare hike. One of them, with the handle @talktosanjai, tweeted, "Overheard somebody chanting while standing in the queue to renew monthly season ticket for train: 'Ache Din Aane Waale Hain, Ache Din'".

A woman commuter at CST flew into a rage when she found there was no one manning the counter for women and senior citizens. Another commuter, Kalbadevi resident Mahendra Trivedi, complained that the counter for senior citizens was shut during the evening peak hours. "The railways need to show 100% commitment towards commuters if they seek a more than 100% hike," he said.

Around 1,800 season tickets are sold at CST every day, but here too, booking officials, said, the number for Saturday was higher as almost every fourth person had come to buy a season ticket.

Panvel resident Litu Sahu said, "I usually buy a monthly pass worth Rs 335, but I have now bought a half-yearly ticket worth Rs 1,850. I rushed to CST to buy the ticket after I was alerted by friends in the railways that the authorities might not allow us to buy longer-term season tickets."

Madhu Sharma, a Malad resident, said, "Despite paying such high first-class fares, we will still be travelling cattle-class. The hike is going to break the backs of Mumbaikars."

Borivali resident Bharat Kanani said the hike would have been justified if the railways had improved facilities at stations or promised to convert 12-car trains into 15-car ones. "Usually, I buy a quarterly season ticket, but after reading the newspapers I went to the ATM to withdraw money for booking a yearly ticket," he said.

Worli resident Madhuri Kumbhare said she would shift to buses now as the monthly fare from CST to Dadar, the distance she travels every day, would go up by 150 per cent. "If I take the train, I also have to take a share-a-taxi from Parel to reach Worli, for which I pay Rs 7 per journey," she said.

The opposition parties too jumped into the fray to protest against the hike. The Congress and NCP held demonstrations against the NDA government at CST, Ghatkopar and Kalyan. Railways,Rail fare hike,Mumbai's train commuters

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