To make train journeys to Mumbai’s suburbs more affordable, the Western Railways is now planning to introduce graded air-conditioned coaches with varying fares on the AC locals. As per a proposal tabled before the Railway Board recently, tickets for the second-class compartments will cost less than the current tariff for AC locals.
Currently, AC locals have no first or second class compartments, but only two sets of six coaches connected through vestibules. The fares of the AC local trains are 1.3 times higher than the tickets for the first-class compartment of a non-AC train.
A passenger has to shell out Rs 15 to travel from Churchgate to Borivali in a second class compartment. For the same distance, the passenger has to spend Rs 140 to travel in the first-class compartment, whereas in AC trains one has to pay Rs 165 for the same distance.
In 2018-19, the number of passengers travelling in first-class compartments from originating stations was around 1,150 lakh, while 11,337 lakh travelled in second class, as per data obtained from the Western Railways (WR). Of the total 12,887 lakh passengers, only 12 per cent travelled in first-class compartments.
For the same period, the number of travellers on WR’s AC locals stood at 3.97 lakh – the occupancy level on the trains was around 20 per cent.
Officials claim that the difference in the fare structure between a second-class trip and an all-AC train commute, which can be as high as 1,000 per cent at times, is one of the major reason behind the poor ridership on AC trains.
WR, which presently runs around 12 services throughout a week, daily sells an average of 1,623 tickets, including its card and journey tickets.
“It is relatively easier for a passenger travelling in first-class coaches to switch to AC locals, but for a passenger travelling in second class the fare difference is a lot. To make travels on AC locals affordable for non-AC general class commuters, the WR is considering to start graded air-conditioned coaches with varying fares,” a senior official from WR said.
As per the proposal, the full-fare AC rakes will have better seating arrangements with cushioned seats, while the discounted fare compartments would have normal seats.
The proposal was mooted after the Railway Board had called a meeting with all stakeholders to decide the coach composition for a semi-AC local. Currently, WR has six AC rakes of which only two are being utilised to operate 12 services, while one is undergoing periodic maintenance. WR is expected to receive three more AC rakes in the next two months.
Second AC rake on January 30
WR is all set to induct its second AC rake on January 30. The rake will be used to run a total of eight services. In the down direction, one train will run between Virar and Churchgate, while remaining three between Andheri and Churchgate. Similarly, in the up direction, one train will run from Churchgate to Virar, while the remaining three from Churchgate to Borivali.