Palakkad: The newly-launched Thiruvananthapuram–Kasaragod Kerala Vande Bharat Express has already earned the honour of being the most popular service in this class in the country. As per official data, the occupancy rate – the ratio of people attempting booking to the number of seats available – on the Thiruvananthapuram-Kasaragod service is 215 per cent. Meanwhile, the occupancy rate on Kasaragod-Thiruvananthapuram route is 203 per cent.
The Vande Bharat services having the next highest occupancy rates in India are Coimbatore – Chennai and Secunderabad-Tirupati services at over 150%.
Incidentally, the Kerala Vande Bharat was launched with 16 coaches and the railway authorities had indicated that the number would be reduced to eight if there was poor demand for tickets. However, with high occupancy being reported, the reduction in the number of coaches is unlikely to take place. Officials believe that even after the initial curiosity of passengers to travel on Vande Bharat wanes, over 100% occupancy would be witnessed in the Kerala service.
At the same time, several other Vande Bharat services in the country are running with most of their seats empty. They include the Bilaspur-Nagpur Vande Bharat which sees only 52% of the seats being filled and the Ajmer-Delhi service with occupancy of 48%. As such services cause a huge loss to the railway, the authorities have issued a directive to reduce the number of coaches from 16 to eight.
With Assembly elections scheduled to take place in Rajasthan later this year, the Railway Board has recommended introduction of four new Vande Bharat services urgently in the state. The routes of these trains are being finalized, said authorities.
Currently, the railway operates 15 Vande Bharat services in the country.