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Just like the airlines and hotels, the railways could soon offer be dishing out discounts on tickets if trains are not fully booked, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal said on Saturday, indicating a complete revamp of the flexi-fare scheme.
Mr. Goyal’s remarks came days after the Railway Board formed a six-member committee to review the flexi-fare scheme.
Speaking after a day-long conclave of senior officials here, the Minister said the national transporter was studying a model of dynamic pricing offered by airlines and hotels.
“We have been deliberating on a dynamic pricing policy. So far we have been discussing that the price should not go up, but I want to go a step ahead. I am exploring a possibility where suppose trains are not going full — like in airlines — we get discounted fares.”
“We will use (Ashwani) Lohani’s expertise…like there is dynamic pricing in hotels. First the prices are low… then the prices go high and then later you get discounts on the remaining rooms through bookmyhotel or other websites,” Mr. Goyal said.
He also questioned why flexi-fares were meant only for price increase in rail tickets. “Just like the airlines and hotels where a person gets discount at the last minute, it (the railways) should also offer discounts on the routes with relatively low occupancy,” he said.
The six-member committee, set up on December 11, has been mandated to recommend ways to offer a more lucrative scheme which may include loyalty and other benefits to the passengers. The board has also asked the panel to consider modifications or amendments to the the flexi-fare system to offer passengers flexibility of rates during peak season, lean season or during week days, weekends or festivals.The committee on flexi-fares has been asked to submit its report within 30 days.
The flexi-fare system, launched in September 2016, led to an increase of up to 50% in fares. Under the formula, base fares increase from 10% to 50% with every 10 per cent of berths booked.
While revenue increased, the railways lost passengers as several berths remained vacant, officials said.
Mr. Goyal also said that in the coming year, plans are being made to maximise utilisation of assets. “In the airlines, we see the maintenance of an aircraft is completed within 30 minutes and it is made ready to go for another journey. In the same way, the railway rakes should be utilised to full capacity.”
“It is a saying that one should be able to sweat one’s assets. Right now a Rajdhani Express train from Delhi to Mumbai stays at the station for maintenance. It can be maintained and cleaned by 22 teams in 30 minutes and again made fit to go on a journey of two or three hours, beside its original return journey,” he said.
“It can be utilised for a small trip in that time. Going ahead I would want that the trip between Delhi and Mumbai be completed in 11 hours and half-an-hour on each side goes in maintenance. So a round trip would become possible,” the minister said.
He was replying to a question on whether the railways was exploring the possibility of a Rajdhani Express train making a round trip within 24 hours, with half-an-hour gaps for inspection at either end, to maximise utilisation.
Mr. Goyal said while the national transporter was already trying out an experiment on the Delhi-Mumbai Rajdhani by using two engines, he has also suggested that the train should depart from Delhi at 5 p.m. instead of 4 pm, allowing people one more hour to do work.
“It should reach Mumbai by 7 am instead of 6 a.m. in the morning, allowing people to sleep for an additional hour,” he added.