Hyderabad: Chaos reigned supreme at railway stations in the twin cities on Saturday due to the rush for the ensuing Sankranti season which began early due to the extended weekend. For the past few days, thousands of people have been boarding trains to travel to their hometown to spend the holidays at their native places. Serpentine queues at ticket counters and overflowing platforms made the lives of travellers very difficult.
Mr S. Mohan, a Hyderabad-based engineering student wished to travel to his hometown Dornakal in Mahbubabad district on Saturday. He planned on travelling in a general compartment of the Vijayawada-bound Sata-vahana Express from Secunderabad. Once he reached the station, he was overwhelmed by the crowd and decided to cancel his trip.
Many travellers faced the same problem. Ms Hemalatha, a software engineer who wished to travel to Kakinada, said, “I tried to book a ticket for Saturday almost two months ago. But they were over. In fact, I couldn’t get a ticket even in one of the special trains. I thought I would try my luck with my general compartment, but the crowd was too much.”
Some were willing to brave the crowds but they faced another difficulty in the form of long lines at the ticket counters. Some had to wait more than an hour for a chance to purchase tickets.
Many travellers complained that the special trains announced by the South Central Railway (SCR) were not enough and more were needed. SCR has, so far, run more than 300 special trains in the last 30 days.
Many travellers had another complaint about the special trains announced during the Sankranti season.
They said most of the trains were either ‘special’ (with tickets at Tatkal prices) and ‘Suvidha’ (with tickets at dynamic pricing) services.
Suvidha, in particular, can be particularly expensive. The fares start at Tatkal rates and increase as more tickets are sold. The last few tickets can cost more than 3.2 times the normal fare.
For instance, a 3AC ticket from Secunderabad to Kakinada in a Suvidha train can cost over `3,600 and a 2AC for over `5,000. Such is the demand that even these expensive tickets are selling out pretty quickly. Travellers complained that the special Jan Sadharan trains, wherein prices are at normal rates and all compartments are unreserved, are far too few.
People noted that, currently, there is only one Jan Sadharan train each to Vijayawada and Kakinada. Narsapur, a major destination in Andhra Pradesh, does not have a regular Jan Sadharan train during the peak weeks.
Telangana-based travellers complained that their needs have been ignored. Mr Kennedy, a traveller from Secunderabad heading to Nalgonda, said, “The Jan Sadharan train from Secunderabad to Nalgonda (terminating at Vijayawada) starts at a convenient time here. But on the return journey, it starts after midnight at Nalgonda.”
Also, to account for the extra rush, some special trains are being run slower than their normal counterparts. For instance, a special train from Secunderabad to Vijayawada is taking an hour longer than usual to make sure all passengers can alight at stations without a hurry.
Mr Sasidhar Uppuluri, member of a railway users committee, said the special trains could have been planned in a better way. “Special trains, especially Jan Sadharan trains, should be scheduled close to their normal counterparts. If a special train is run within an hour of the normal train, people would be able to try for both trains, and the crowd will be evenly divided. Currently, many people are unaware of the special trains and simply try boarding normal trains. If both trains were scheduled together, people can try using both,” he said.