Monday, September 21, 2015

Train on schedule but train not started!

(Why Indian Railways needs to be privatized)

A background

Twice this month, September 2015, traveling to Mumbai and later from Beas to New Delhi, I have witnessed a new phenomenon with the Indian Railways.

In the first instance, I was traveling to Mumbai, by a superfast train with only 5 stops in between. However, the train was late by 4 hours, arriving in Mumbai at an hour which completely ruined the entire days work, scheduled in advance.

It was not known to me, nor any announcement made on Internet, 139 Tollfree Indian Railways line, on newspapers or any other communication medium, that due to faulty lines and subsequent repair thereof, all trains travelling to Delhi or outside, running through Ballabgarh would be delayed by 3 – 4 hours for a period of a week. Had this been broadcasted, many passengers like myself would choose another route/or travel means to arrive at our destination, having cancelled our ticket, albeit late.

Further, the train scheduled to start at 8.30 pm, finally was rescheduled to 11.55 pm. Indeed, it did not start till, 11.58 pm and then went ahead and got stuck at Ballabhgadh for the next 4 hours!

How Railways make their money

Taking the above mentioned example, jJust look at the roughish Indian Railways – had the train started at 12 midnight, then it would have been mandatory for the railways to refund the entire ticket amount to each and every passenger on the train, because the ticket would have automatically been cancelled due to train not starting on the day it was booked for.

Second, that the train was late was not announced, till, the hour of scheduled departure, so passengers were left with no choice, except to wait for the train to leave at its rescheduled time. Or forgo the entire ticket money and return home. This would in turn leave empty berths which the Ticket Collector on the train could sell to people who board the train without reservation, rampant in India, still.

Not an exception but a rule

Indeed, the pattern is the same with all trains. There is no announcement that warns the passenger in time that the train is later, until the eleventh hour.

As it happened, I faced the same predicament when after a tiresome tour of Punjab, I waited to board the Swarn Shatabdi at Beas. Again, no announcement was made, till the scheduled departure time, that the train was late. When I checked the internet, it said, train on schedule time, but train not started. When I called 139, the Tollfree number, it said, the train is late by 2 hours! Again the passenger is left with no choice, but to wait.

Most people argue that the Railways in India is doing a great job. I beg to differ.

Given the fact that it is a Service Oriented industry, there are no excuses for poor quality food on trains, frequent delays of trains, lack of proper intimation to passengers on delays, exorbitantly priced tickets with no ROI.

Indeed, it is far better to travel by plane, but for the traveler who enjoys the train journey, to catch up on sleep, reading, relaxing, talking to fellow passengers, I guess the time has come to say, Goodbye, dear traveler! Our paths may never cross again….  

Until the private sector take over Indian Railways, which is a monopoly, ailing, diseased and dying on a sick bed.  

Picture: From the net

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