No one enjoyed the summer more than the Indian Railways. While North India was fighting an unforgiving summer, the trains were busy earning lots of money.
In the peak summer months from April to end of June this year, the Railways have run a record 1,868 trips — 10 per cent higher than last year — of the ‘Summer Special’ trains between Delhi and neighbouring regions to accommodate a sharp rise in passengers.
Special trains are run temporarily on busy routes when the regular trains cannot contain the passenger rush.
As the rising mercury along with a prolonged absence of rainfall made life miserable in Delhi and across North India, people, it turns out, started taking trains to cooler destinations, including Jammu, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Maharashtra, Kerala and West Bengal.
And by providing the extra trains on specific routes, Northern Railway raked in a neat Rs 55.66 crore of additional revenue - the highest ever from Summer Special trains.
"The earnings have exceeded the estimates," said a senior railway official who did not wish to be named since he's not authorised to talk to the media.
"We had expected to carry around nine lakh passengers in the special trains. We ended up servicing over 10 lakh."
As the price of air tickets soared — the fares of low-cost carriers included — trains found favour among the upper middle class crowd, revving up the demand for air-conditioned coaches across sectors.
A total of 396 extra air-conditioned coaches were deployed to contain the rush.
"Not just tourists, but working professionals heading back to hometowns in various parts of the country are a traditional clientele during this season," he said.
For travel industry experts, this is a defining trend, says Anil Kalsi of Travel Agents Association of India, a nationwide body of travel agencies and allied services.
“According to our estimates, for every Rs 200 increase in airfares, around 1 per cent passengers shift to the railways,” he said.
Sample this. While an AC-III tier journey to Cochin costs around Rs 1,600, the ticket of a low-cost airline costs around Rs 5,000, even when booked a month in advance. “Airline tickets have to be realistically priced. Or else, it not only affects airlines, but the industry as a whole,” Kalsi said.