Chennai: Union Railways Minister Ashwani Vaishnaw has stated that the fare concession that was allowed for senior citizens for travelling by train will not be restored. The fare cut was in force for years till the suspension of nationwide train services for two years owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Explaining the rationale behind the significant move, the minister said the normal ticket fare itself has a subsidy.
Of every Rs 100 spent on the running cost, only Rs 45 is charged from the passengers, Vaishnav said.
The Railways had given 40 per cent concession in ticket fares for men above 60 years of age and 50 per cent for women above the age of 58 years.
The Railways ran special trains with a fare structure different from the regular one when it resumed passenger services in a phased manner when the COVID-19 cases started to decline. No concessions of any type were allowed. Now, with the resumption of all regular services the conventional fares are in force again.
Meanwhile, the Southern Railway has announced that it would grant more concessions for study tour of students. Schools were not able to hold study tours for the past two years in light of the pandemic.
Railways earns additional Rs 1500 crore from senior citizens
The Railways has generated an additional revenue of over Rs 1,500 crore from senior citizen travellers in two years since March 2020 when the assistance was suspended after the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, an RTI response has found.
In its reply to a Right to Information query filed by Madhya Pradesh-based Chandra Shekhar Gaur, the Railways said that between March 20, 2020 and March 31, 2022, the Railways did not offer concessions to 7.31 crore senior citizen travellers. These included 4.46 crore males over the age of 60, 2.84 crore females over 58 and 8,310 transgender people.
The total revenue from senior citizen travellers during the period is Rs 3,464 crore, which includes an additional Rs 1,500 crore earned due to the suspension of the concession, according to the RTI response.
As for the gender-wise break-up for the overall revenue from senior citizens, the RTI reply said, it was Rs 2,082 crore from male passengers, Rs 1,381 crore from female travellers, and Rs 45.58 lakh from transgenders.
Female senior citizen travellers are eligible for a 50 per cent concession, while male and transgenders can avail 40 per cent in all classes. The minimum age limit for a woman to avail the concession is 58, while it is 60 for a man.
The Railways incurs a huge burden of around Rs 2,000 crore every year due to around 53 types of concessions it offers to various kinds of passengers. The senior citizen concession amounts to around 80 per cent of the total discounts given by the national transporter.
Earlier, the Railway had tried to encourage people to give up their senior citizen concessions, but it was not a success. In fact, according to a Comptroller and Auditor General report in 2019, the response to the 'give it up' scheme from the senior citizen passengers was not very encouraging.
The report said that out of total 4.41 crore senior citizen passengers, 7.53 lakh (1.7 per cent) opted to give up 50 per cent concession and 10.9 lakh (2.47 per cent) gave up 100 per cent concession.
Underpass to save elephants
In order to save elephants from getting hit and killed by trains, the Railways will construct an underpass along Palakkad-Coimbatore section where such incidents are occurring frequently, the Union Railways Minister announced.
More than one survey was being held for extending the railway line to Sabarimala from Tamil Nadu, he added.
(With PTI inputs)