Indian Railways took the fast track in 2016 in several ways—better coaches, faster trains, green and clean technology, safety measures and innovative fares. Union Minister of Railways Suresh Prabhu has certainly made train travel faster, and a lot smoother. Convenience on cards Govt's cashless push is good if you are a train traveller. Online booking of railway tickets will get you free accident insurance cover of Rs 10 lakh. There's more. If you swipe your card for any of these - railway catering, accommodation -- get a 5 per cent discount.... more...
Not just that, railways will be making sale of over-the-counter rail tickets payable through credit and debit cards. A plan is already in the works with bankers such as SBI, ICICI for 15,000 point of sale (POS) machines at the reservation counters. Long queues and change --- you might just miss them when you visit a train station next year. Flexi fares On the lines of the aviation sector, the railways have introduced a new pricing method in Rajdhani, Duronto and Shatabdi trains from September 9 which is expected to generate an annual revenue of Rs 500 crore. Under the flexi fare system, passengers will have to shell out 10 to 50 per cent more. The first 10 per cent of the seats will be sold at the normal fare. The base fare will go up with every 10 per cent of the berths sold. Once half of the train tickets are sold, the rest will be sold at a price 1.5 times higher than the base fares for second AC and 2S sleeper coaches and 1.4 times higher for third AC coaches. There will no tatkal charges applicable but the fares for the tatkal booking will be available at 150 per cent of the the base fare for all the classes. Other supplementary charges such as reservation fee, superfast charges and catering services will be levied separately. The First AC and Executive Class travel have been kept out of the new pricing model due to already high fares in these categories. Gender bender Mainstreaming a marginalised section of our society, IRCTC and the railways have recently included 'transgender' as the third gender alongside male and female in ticket reservation and cancellation forms. Tri-Netra To reduce train accidents, the railways will soon introduce an advanced system called the Terrain Imaging for Diesel Drivers —Infrared Enhanced Optical and Radar Assisted (Tri-Netra) system in all trains. Tri-Netra will keep a record of the track maintenance and help maintain high speed during difficult weather such as fog and heavy rains to avoid delays in arrivals. It is based on a technology that fighter jets use to see through clouds and operate in pitch dark. Executive lounges Railway stations are being revamped with new executive lounges. The first executive lounge was built at New Delhi Railway Station. IRCTC will build such lounges at 49 stations, which will have features such as WiFi, buffet services, wash and change, and concierge service for pre-departure and post-arrival assistance to passengers of all classes of travel. People can book their stay on the IRCTC website. New trains and coaches To compete with low-cost airlines and win back customers, the railways got several new trains and coaches in 2016 — Humsafar Express , Gatiman Express , Mahamana Express and Tiger Express . The new trains will be in the categories of Shatabdi, Rajdhani and Duronto. The railways also decided to launch several Talgo trains in less than a year. Bio toilets The railways will soon get cleaner and greener. It decided to install bio-toilets in all coaches to make the entire rail network a zero-discharge zone by 2019. It also planned to increase the use of bio-diesel up to five per cent of the total diesel consumption. More clean energy such as solar and wind will follow soon.
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