A wiser railways offers normal rates for Puja, Diwali specials

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The massive flop show, Ganpati special premium trains, apparently has made Railways see sense. It has now announced a large number of special reserved trains, including double decker services, at the normal (booking window) fares. These trains will ply during the Durga Puja and Diwali festival seasons when passenger traffic is among the highest on Indian railway network.

In the past couple of days, railways has announced 120 Durga Puja and Diwali specials that will run between September and mid-November. They include double decker specials between Kurla LTT and Karmali (Goa), which will have as many as eight stops.

Railways has ensured that even the premium specials it has announced, get adequate financial cushioning by adding sleeper class coaches to them. For example, the four premium specials between Kurla LTT and Howrah (to run between Sept 23 and Oct 2) will have 16 sleeper coaches and just three AC coaches.

"It's a conscious decision after the railways burnt its fingers by operating premium special double-decker trains at rates that were clearly out of sync with the financial profile of the average Ganpati traveller. These trains had occupancy of less than 20%. Losses are being calculated; it'll will be substantial," said a senior railway official.

The spate of trains announced in August (to run between Aug 22 and Sept 10) was among the biggest deployment of Ganpati special trains ever. Railways operated 214 specials, a 22% increase from the Ganpati season last year. Of these, 130 were reserved special, 46 were premium trains of which 20 were double deckers, and 38 were unreserved trains.

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