Is Indian Railway earning fully towards its non sub-urban passenger business? There is no published data to corroborate this. Interpreting it by the long waiting list is a wrong assessment. The waiting list continuing in 2016-17 even when there is a drop of 10% passenger as compared to 2012-13 and 10% increase in coach holding. The waiting list exists even in non-peak months when the passenger traffic is 20% less as compared to peak months. Waiting list passenger is a potential business and shall be tapped fully.
It is the right time for IR to compile statistics of Reserved Seat Kilometer Utilization (RSKU) of each train and may be an eye opener giving opportunity to re-invent passenger business.
What is RSKU?
A train with a capacity of reserved seat of say 1000 for Sleeper Class and runs for a distance of 1000 km will have one million RSK and if revenue is earned for 8,00,000 RSK, than the utilization is 80%. From the trend of vacant seats observed in a train during its run, there is a fare assumption that even during peak and non-peak days, it will only be 75-85% and 50-65% respectively. The worst will be the position of festival specials and may only be around 25-35%.
How to estimate RSKU?
- PRS shall work out absolute RSK of each train
- Sum total of actual RSK of originating and en-route stations booked
- Each TTE shall report the RSK as per berths booked en-route
- RSKU shall be worked out from these figures
- Keep the train connected to PRS up to destination
- Provision for passenger to book his seat through mobile/booking office/hand held terminal of TTE at any time till the departure of the train from that station
There is no doubt that it will be poor and ‘how much’ will only be known when worked out actually.
Likely reasons for poor RSKU
- There are large many quotas in a train and RSK is up to destination. The EQ release against such quote may be for a short RSK.
- A passenger may book a ticket against a shorter RSK, and the balance is not available to en-route passenger till charting is done. Balance RSK is earned through TTE on a very non-transparent manner or lost.
- There are large many passenger travelling against free passes or concessional ticket. Non-cancellation even when the journey plan is altered is very common with free travelers. This will only be known after the TTE has checked the entire train, taking about 2-3 hours to estimate the available seats and by this time it lost its potential to earn.
- Short distance RSK (say up to 200 Km) is generally not preferred by passenger due to higher fare as compared to other mode of transport, freedom of departure time, uncertainty in getting confirmed seat etc.
Action plan to improve RSKU
Now with the system of keeping the train connected to PRS till destination put in place, the action plan to improve RSKU are as follows:
- The summer/festival/special trains are not patronized full because the passenger is skeptical of punctuality, on board services, security of belongings, etc. It is always below the dignity even for a common man to say that I have traveled by special train. IR shall work out plans to patronize the special trains for which there can be large many incentives such as minimum stoppage, outsourcing of on board service including meal book through mobile, “selection of seat”, etc.
- The reservation for the special trains shall open to the public three months before the journey date and that of the regular train only 15 days before the journey date.
- The special trains may be named depending the occasion such as Diwali, Chat, New Year, Summer Exp etc.
- This will reduce demand on regular trains which cater for regular traffic with reservation window to open only 15 days before the departure date.
- To introduce system of check-in by a passenger 15 minutes before the schedule departure of the train through mobile app or any other digital method with online system of prompting and reminding. A confirmed seat shall be considered cancelled if he does not check in. Manipulations in cancellation fee will prompt him to accept the concept.
- This shall also hold good for a passenger travelling on free travel authority.
- The wait listed passenger shall also submit his travel plan. The PRS shall allocate the seats to all wait listed passengers having submitted their confirmed travel plan, if available.
- The system of RAC, a cause of pain to passenger when berth not confirmed, shall be dispensed with, and bringing smile on his face.
- To introduce system of “Customer Care” who should contact the wait listed passenger for an alternative travel plan options or option to submit at the time of booking a wait list ticket giving alternate date, preferred departure or arrival time, class etc.
- All such options shall be analyzed for finding the best fit of augmentation of coach for a specific date, train and class.
- The arrangement is advised to all the wait listed passenger to give option and accept the arrangement. This shall be done at least few days before the departure.
- The present system fallacy is that an extra coach is planned at the last moment and confirmation is known after the chart is prepared. By this time, the passenger has decided to cancel his ticket and worked out alternate mode of transport.
- Each cancellation of ticket is a loss of potential earning. With enormous computing technology, available, this can be planned. The objective is “Don’t let the passenger dither away.”
Short Distance Passenger:
- Advanced reservation is the only way through which a passenger plans his journey. It is ok when the journey is more than 500 km and above, involving night travel. Why forget the passenger intend to travel 200 Km by reserved class? Many people prefer rail journey but system is so unfriendly that he is not attracted.
- He cannot dream of travelling unreserved class. When he approaches railway station, he is not welcomed with a friendly approach to find him a seat in the approaching train, even though it exists. It is only extra few rupees that helps in finding seat and sometime, he is asked not to buy a ticket with some more illegal payout. This is a big loss and IR shall tap this potential and compete with road. Rail will certainly be a winner.
- With the facility of finding a train and class of travel of his choice through mobile app, he will be attracted back to rail system. He is fully aware of the benefit of train travel over road i.e. comfort, safety, more leg room, wash room, freedom of movement, reduced jerk during acceleration and braking (very common with road), etc.
- UBER/OLA cab booking app is the best example of passenger satisfaction. It means, that when passenger submits his travel plan i.e. (a) from (b) to (c) class of travel (d) time span, and the system searches all trains approaching the station in that span and advises him train number, expected time of arrival, availability of berths with seat number, fare etc., with two-minute window for him to choose and book. Option of seat selection at this juncture will boost his moral and confidence on rail travel.
- The fare table of IR is telescopic i.e. reducing fare/km for long distance. In case three passenger travels for the identical RSK, the earning is likely to be 20% more. This benefit shall be passed on to the passenger so as to be competitive with road or taken care in dynamic fare model.
The maximum gain will come from long distance express trains like Dehradoon-Mumbai, Mumbai-Howrah, New Delhi-Hyderabad Exp etc. These trains cater for short distance passengers in which the revenue leakage is also maximum.
Shatabadi Express is almost 60% empty from Ajmer to Jaipure, Lucknow to Kanpur, Jhansi to Bhopal etc., and there is a need to attract passenger with concessional fare for such short journey. Concessional ticket can be worked out by deducting the fare of Jaipur to New Delhi from the fare of Ajmer to New Delhi. The fare from Ajmer to Jaipur will then works out to Rs. 150/- as against existing Rs. 229/-. This may give a tough competition to Volvo bus journey charging about Rs. 120/-
Augmentation of Sub-Urban Service:
During peak hours, there is heavy rush between two sub-urban stations in Mumbai sub-urban area such as KYN-CST-KYN, BVI-BCT-BVI etc. There is about 25% vacancy in a train for such as short distance travel. It is possible to attract passengers on fixed fare to avail comfort travel by booking ticket through mobile app. This will also meet the long pending demand for AC services in sub-urban network.
Difference between 3A fare from NDLS-BCT as compared to NDLS-BVI is Rs.20/- and a loss of opportunity to earn when this seat can earn Rs. 100/-/journey or Rs. 5000/-/month fare.
This will help in transferring unreserved passenger for short distance towards reserved coach by paying extra and ensuring confirmed seat without going around TTE, a very painful and humiliating experience.
Indian Railway is loosing long distance passenger business to air due to less transit time and short distance to road due to benefit of door to door travel.
Indian Railway shall rediscover its potential to market its place in the changing preferences of the passenger.
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