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‘RSKU’ – a new term to monitor Indian Railway passenger business

By on January 17, 2017

Is Indian Railway earning fully towards its non-suburban passenger business? There is no published data to corroborate this. Interpreting it by the long waiting list is a wrong assessment. The waiting list continued in 2016-17, even when there was a drop of 10% in passengers compared to 2012-13 and a 10% increase in coach holding. The waiting list exists even in non-peak months when the passenger traffic is 20% less than in 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 the Reserved Seat Kilometer Utilization (RSKU) of each train, and it may be an eye-opener giving an opportunity to re-invent passenger business.

What is RSKU?

A train with a capacity of the reserved seat of, say, 1000 for the 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, then the utilization is 80%. From the trend of vacant seats observed in a train during its run, there is a fair 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 which may only be around 25-35%.

How to estimate RSKU?


  1. PRS shall work out the absolute RSK of each train
  2. Total of actual RSK of originating and en-route stations booked
  3. Each TTE shall report the RSKU as per berths booked en-route
  4. RSKU shall be worked out from these figures


  1. Keep the train connected to PRS up to the destination
  2. Provision for a passenger to book his seat through mobile/booking office/handheld terminal of TTE at any time till the departure of the train from that station

Undoubtedly, it will be poor, and ‘how much’, will only be known when worked out.

Likely reasons for poor RSKU

  1. There are many quotas on a train, and RSK is up to the destination. The EQ release against such quota may be for a short RSKU.
  2. A passenger may book a ticket for a shorter distance, and the balance is not available to en-route passengers till charting is done. Balance RSK is earned through TTE in a very non-transparent manner or lost.
  3. Large many passenger are traveling against free passes or concessional tickets. Non-cancellation is very common with free travelers, even when the journey plan is altered. 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.
  4. Short-distance travelers (say up to 200 Km) are generally not preferred for reservation by the passenger due to higher fares, including the reservation charges and berth allotment as compared to other modes of transport, freedom of departure time, uncertainty in getting a confirmed seat, etc.

Action plan to improve earning potential of a passenger train

Now with the system of keeping the train connected to PRS till the destination is put in place, the action plan to improve Reserved Seat Kilometer Utilisation or RSKU is as follows:

Acceptance of Special Trains by passengers

  1. The summer/festival/special trains are not patronized fully because the passenger is skeptical of punctuality, onboard 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 devise plans to patronize the special trains for which there can be many incentives such as minimum stoppage, outsourcing of onboard services including meal book through mobile, “selection of seat,” etc.
  2. 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.
  3. The special trains may be named depending on the occasion, such as Diwali, Chat, New Year, Summer Exp, etc.
  4. This will reduce demand on regular trains, which cater to regular traffic with a reservation window to open only 15 days before the departure date.

Check-in facility for the passenger

  1. To introduce a system of check-in by a passenger 15 minutes before the scheduled departure of the train through a mobile app or any other digital method with an online system of promoting and reminding the passenger to decide on his incoming journey. A confirmed seat shall be considered canceled if he does not check-in. The downward revision in cancellation fees will prompt him to accept the concept.
  2. This shall also hold good for a passenger traveling on free travel authority.
  3. The waitlisted passenger shall also submit his travel plan. If available, the PRS shall allocate the seats to all waitlisted passengers who submitted their confirmed travel plan.
  4. The system of RAC, a cause of pain to the passenger when berth is not confirmed, shall be dispensed with, bringing a smile to his face to confirm the berth before journey as per cancellation and avoidance of non-transparency after boarding the train.

Introduction of ‘Customer Care Service’

  1. To introduce a system of “Customer Care” who should contact the waitlisted passenger for alternative travel plan options or submit when booking a waitlisted ticket with an alternate date, preferred departure or arrival time, class, etc.
  2. All such options shall be analyzed to find the best fit for the augmentation of additional coaches on a specific date, train, and class.
  3. The arrangement is advised to all the waitlisted passengers to give the option and accept the arrangement. This shall be done at least a few days before the departure.
  4. 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 had decided to cancel his ticket and worked out an alternate mode of transport.

“Each cancellation of the ticket is a loss of potential earnings. With the availability of advancements in computer technology, this can be planned. The objective is “Don’t let the passenger dither away.”

Short Distance Passenger

  1. 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 intends to travel 200 Km by reserved class? Many people prefer rail journeys, but the system is so unfriendly that it is not attractive.
  2. He cannot dream of traveling unreserved class. When he approaches the railway station, he is not welcomed with a friendly approach to finding him a seat on the approaching train, even though it exists. Only a few extra rupees help him find a seat, and sometimes, 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 the road. Rail will certainly be a winner.
  3. With the facility of finding a train and class of travel of his choice through a mobile app, he will be attracted back to the rail system. He is fully aware of the benefit of train travel over the road i.e., comfort, safety, more leg room, washroom, freedom of movement, reduced jerk during acceleration and braking (very common with the road), etc.
  4. UBER/OLA cab booking app is the best example of passenger satisfaction. It means that when a passenger submits his travel plan, i.e., ‘from to where’, ‘class of travel’, and ‘when to travel’ , the system searches all trains approaching the station in that span and advises him train number, expected time of arrival, availability of berths with a seat number, fare, etc., with two-minute window for him to choose and book. The seat selection option at this juncture will boost his morale and confidence in rail travel.
  5. The fare table of IR is telescopic, i.e., reducing fare/km for long distances. If three passengers travel on the same seat on the train, the earnings will be approximately 20% more than the end-to-end traveler.  This benefit shall be passed on to the passenger to be competitive with the road or taken care of in a 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 to short-distance passengers in which the revenue leakage is also the maximum.

Shatabadi Express is almost 60% empty from Ajmer to Jaipur, Lucknow to Kanpur, Jhansi to Bhopal, etc., and there is a need to attract passengers with concessional fares for such a short journey. The concessional ticket can be worked out by deducting the fare from 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 the existing Rs. 229/-. This may give tough competition to Volvo bus journey charging about Rs. 120/-

Attracting sub-urban traffic

During peak hours, there is a heavy rush between two suburban stations in Mumbai suburban area such as KYN-CST-KYN, BVI-BCT-BVI, etc. There is about 25% vacancy in a regular long-distance train for such short distance travel. It is possible to attract passengers on a fixed fare to avail comfortable travel by booking a ticket through a mobile app. This will also meet the long-pending demand for AC services in the suburban 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.

Unreserved Seats:

The unreserved coach is journey overloaded, whereas there are berths available in the reserved coach. This will help transfer unreserved passengers for a short distance towards reserved coach in the train by paying a few rupees extra and ensuring confirmed seats 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 the short distance to the road due to benefit of door to door travel. It is the right time for Indian Railways to

Rediscover its potential to market its place in the changing travel preferences of the passenger.  


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