Inside an Indian Railways train

The average occupancy of reserved berths in trains in India rose to 102% in the ongoing financial year, the railways said, quoting data from April to December 2016.

The number indicates the extreme inadequacy of railway service in India.

Occupancy level was 101% in the preceding year.

An occupancy level of 100% implies that all berths are allotted to one person each.

However, in case of congestion, the Railways allots a single berth to two people, particularly if those berths are located on the sides.

Many trains see all their berths sold out on ‘opening day’ — the first day when bookings are available. Books are permitted two months in advance on Indian trains.

Taking advantage of the high demand for services, the railways has introduced ‘flexi fare’ system, under which fares of many in-demand trains are made to rise with more and more demand — similar to how airlines operate.

This results are ticket price parity between the railways and bus operators. However, many people still prefer to travel by trains for the sake of convenience.

ANTYODAYA TRAINS

To ease the congestion, the government announced plans to set up fully unreserved Antyodaya Express trains on dense routes earlier this year.

The coaches of such trains are modern design, called Linke Hofmann Busch, and allow for interconnection between coaches.

They have cushioned luggage racks on top so that these can be used as seats during rush hour. Like suburban trains, these will also have additional hand holds and water filtration systems. They will also have more mobile charging points and are more colorful compared to regular trains.

Seven such trains has been announced, though they have not started service.

The base fare of these trains are 15% higher than the base fare of unreserved second class trains. Other charges like superfast surcharge are also levied if the trains are given such status.

Though there have been proposals to allow private companies to own and operate trains on the Indian Railways tracks to ease the congestion, such moves are opposed by powerful unions of railway workers.

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