Air Travel will overtake Indian Railways soon, says internal report
In the near future, upper-class passengers will choose domestic airlines over Indian Railways as the preferred method of long-distance travel. A blueprint prepared for future course of action by Indian Railways stated in concrete terms that in coming years, the national transporter will lose the majority of its upper-class clientele to the now flourishing domestic airlines sector. Here's more about it.
Previously, it was "time" that made people opt for airlines, however, in recent times "price" has also become an important factor. If one can save time within an affordable price, he/she would choose airlines over railways any day. Therefore, these two factors need to be addressed on an urgent basis, says the blueprint, if the viability of Indian Railways is to be maintained.
Upon analyzing government statistics, it was seen that almost 25% domestic air travel takes place over inter-city distances within 500 kms. Earlier this segment was considered to be the monopoly of Indian Railways. The popular notion was that one opts for air travel only if the distance is around 800-1,000 kms, which now stands corrected. This new revelation calls for a major strategy change.
Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu had asked for an internal assessment report to chalk out a thorough overhaul and course correction. This blueprint was part of the same report. Airports are now moving into Tier-II and III cities, thus, preference is shifting towards using air travel for even short hauls. Airfares have also become more affordable and NDA policies, such as UDAAN, also help.
Even in the upto 100-km segment, Railways has been losing passengers. Responding to a query from Parliamentary Standing Committee, Railways cited better rural road connectivity and increase in two-wheelers as the reasons behind it. Former Railway Board Member (Traffic) Ajay Shukla said to IE, "For years, we have refused to see the writing on the wall. This is the global trend in developed economies."
Shukla believes that Railways should let go of the long-distance services segment to the domestic aviation sector and concentrate on freeing up its capacity to accommodate more freight trains. This would make a real contribution to the Indian economy. It remains to be seen what measures will be taken by the largest transport provider of India in the coming months, to address this impasse.