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Many passenger trains to be converted into express

A decision that could impact the life of lakhs of common people, the Railway Ministry has decided to convert as many as 502 passenger trains that run beyond 200 km into express trains by speeding them up and reducing halts.

In South Western Railway (SWR), some of the prominent passenger trains, including Bengaluru-Hubballi-Bengaluru (three pairs), Ballari-Dharwad-Ballari and Hosapete-Bengaluru-Hosapete, and Bengaluru-Shivamogga-Bengaluru (two pairs) were being converted. If intermediate halts between cities and towns were curtailed, people in villages entirely depending upon them would be affected.

In a communique to zonal railways on Wednesday, the Ministry asked them to speed up the identified trains and curtail halts if required.

The move comes soon after Ministry’s recent decision to introduce ‘Zero Timetable’ from July 1 wherein the zones were asked to cancel trains with low patronage and eliminate commercially unviable halts. The zones, besides recommending cancellation of several trains, had also recommended elimination of hundreds of halts.

Railfans fear the decision would have far reaching impact on day-to-day life and felt the it was a step forward towards commercialisation of Indian Railways. The fares would get nearly doubled, they said pointing out the maximum fare on a passenger train for 900 km travel was just ₹135 while on an express, it would be ₹283 in second class sitting and ₹409 in a sleeper coach.

More than the fares, lakhs of people who have built their life on the passenger train network would be left with no option if halts were curtailed, they said. The rail network through passenger trains had provided an affordable mode of commuting to people from weaker sections of society, including farmers and daily wage earners.

Railfan Kundapura Gautam Shetty said the Railways appears to be moving away from its social obligations and concentrating solely on commercial aspects. A particular train or a halt could be commercially unviable for the Railways; but it would be the sole means of livelihood for many, he said.

‘Provide alternative’

Yogendra Swamy from Mysuru Grahaka Parishat said while converting passenger trains into express and eliminating halts, the Railways should provide alternatives in the form of short-distance trains on the same route and timing. People, though prepared to pay more, would lose their livelihood if alternative arrangements are not made, he said.

In South Western Railway (SWR), some of the prominent passenger trains, including Bengaluru-Hubballi-Bengaluru (three pairs), Ballari-Dharwad-Ballari and Hosapete-Bengaluru-Hosapete, and Bengaluru-Shivamogga-Bengaluru (two pairs) were being converted. If intermediate halts between cities and towns were curtailed, people in villages entirely depending upon them would be affected, he said.

Speedy journey

A senior Railway official however said the Ministry intended to offer speedy journey for passengers on long distance routes by eliminating halts. The Ministry was analysing commercial aspects of operations and pointed out even fares on express trains were cheaper than road transport. Passenger trains were severely affecting the Railways’ finances, he added.

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