New Delhi: Passengers will have to shell out more than Rs 3,000 in the ‘executive class’ and about Rs 1,800 in the ‘chair car’ for travelling in the much-awaited Train-18, according to the tentative fare chart formulated by Indian Railways’ traffic wing.
This represents an increase of about 40%-50% when compared to the Shatabdi base fare for the same distance.
Notwithstanding the stand-off between mechanical and electrical departments over whether the train needs an Electrical Inspector General (EIG) certification, the traffic directorate has put forward a fare structure proposal for the first indigenously built semi-high speed trainset.
It will now have to be approved by railway minister Piyush Goyal.
The existing Shatabdi base fare for 776 km travel between New Delhi and Varanasi is Rs 2,013 and Rs 8,86 in the executive class and chair car categories respectively. The proposed fare in the semi-high speed Train-18 is Rs 2,818 and Rs 1,329 respectively.
This would translate into a 40% increase in executive class, while the chair car hike is about 50% when compared to the Shatabdi base fare, according to the tentative fare chart accessed by The Wire.
The 16-coach Train-18 has cost about Rs 100 crore.
“Because input cost is more, the fare is accordingly fixed considering various other factors like paying capacity of targeted consumers, time and facilities available in the train,” sources with knowledge of the project said.
The total fare between New Delhi and Varanasi is slated to be Rs 3,500 in executive class and Rs 1,830 in chair car after including catering charges, superfast charges and GST.
Like premium-service trains such as the Rajdhani and Shatabdi, catering charges are included in the Train-18 fare. Currently, one has to pay Rs 1,105 in 3AC, Rs 1,575 in 2AC and Rs 2,665 in 1AC in the Shiv Ganga Express, an overnight train to Varanasi which does not include catering charges.
On the return journey, the Train-18 fare has been kept at Rs 3,450 for the executive class and Rs 1,775 for chair car.
The Train-18, expected to be flagged off by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has been delayed due to bureaucratic tussles and already missed three possible launching dates – December 25 and 29, and January 13.
Keeping in mind the ongoing Kumbh Mela in Allahabad and upcoming Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in Varanasi, Modi’s constituency, the Railways Board will take a call shortly to resolve these issues so that Train-18 can cater to the increased demand.
Meanwhile, in a letter to the chairman of the Railway Board, the mechanical wing of the national transporter has categorically rejected the idea of allowing EIG inspection and has offered to get the train inspected by anyone other than the EIG.
“Any further inspections may be considered through any other party, if desired, by Board/Chief Commissioner of Railway Safety including any electrical officers to check the safety of the T-18 rake but the nomenclature of such an inspection will not be an EIG inspection,” stated the letter accessed by The Wire .
It has further reiterated that “EIG sanction is not tenable administratively, technically and legally,” and that “insistence on EIG sanction is not providing any additional safety except interference by the loco department in a matter that only concerns the Rolling Stock department”.
The loco department belongs to the electrical wing, while rolling stock is under mechanical.
Equipped with modern amenities such as automatic doors with retractable footsteps, onboard Wi-Fi and infotainment, a GPS-based passenger information system and modular toilets with bio-vacuum systems, Train-18 is scheduled to start at 6 am from New Delhi and reach Varanasi at 2:30 pm. The return journey is to start at 3 pm from Varanasi.
While breakfast and lunch will be offered during the New Delhi-Varanasi travel, evening snacks and dinner will be served during the return journey. That is why the return fare is a little less.
With rotational seats which can be aligned in the direction of travel in executive class, a first for the Indian Railways, Train-18 is capable of running at a maximum speed of 160 km per hour. During the trial run, it clocked 180 km per hour for a few minutes.
Arun Kumar Das is a senior journalist. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org