First-class travellers in suburban trains, who have been hit by four hikes in the last 10 months, are irked by the announcement of Wednesday’s fare hike as they say the increased cost has not been matched with an improvement in services.
“Apart from the MUTP surcharge and the service tax, the Railways has hiked suburban fare by 13 paise per km in the last year. But, there is neither an increase in facilities nor has the commute improved,” said Subhash Gupta, member, National Railway Users Consultative Committee.
Fares were first hiked after the railway budget last year. In October, the Railways announced a 3.7% service charge on first-class travel. On January 1, the MUTP surcharge was levied on first and second-class travel.
Passengers complain that though they pay five to 10 times more than second-class passengers, travelling conditions are not much better. “Only the seats differ, but even the first-class seats are in a bad condition, especially in the new rakes,” said Paresh Patil, a government employee.
Railway authorities said of the 75 lakh commuters on CR and WR, about 10% travel by first class. Despite a gradual increase in the number of first-class commuters, the number of compartments and trains remain the same, resulting in overcrowding.
“I rarely get a place to sit during my journey from Vikhroli to Masjid Bunder,” said Vishwas Das, a bank executive. Even women complained of overcrowding. They also said that security guards are rarely present in ladies’ compartments.