New Delhi | Complimentary travel on luxury trains is a wastage of public money, a parliamentary panel has said, recommending that the ministry conduct a survey to analyse if railways was any way benefitting from the exercise.
The standing committee on railways headed by Trinamool Congress MP Sudip Bandyopadhyay, in its report last year, had recommended that the tradition of such complimentary tickets be discontinued.
The railways in its reply has said complimentary tickets are permitted for senior officials for inspection purpose while others are provided the same for promotion purposes as a marketing tool.
“The committee fails to understand that despite using complimentary travel as a marketing tool for promotion of luxury trains since 2012-2013, no significant rise/improvement has been observed either in occupancy or in revenue generation of these trains.
“The cost of complimentary travel has been borne by railways which further adds to the losses of railways and is a gross wastage of public money,” the committee said in its action-taken report tabled in Parliament on Thursday.
In the years 2012-2016, more than 250 passengers availed the complimentary travel in Maharajas’ Express.
In the five years between 2012 and 2017, the luxury tourist trains Palace on Wheels, Maharajas’ Express, Golden Chariot, Royal Rajasthan on Wheels and Deccan Odyssey have run with vacant seats ranging between 45 and 63 per cent of their capacity. The tariff for the trains range from USD 500 (Rs 31,600) to USD 850 (Rs 53,000).
During the same period, the haulage charges levied on these trains by railways has been far more than the revenue some of the trains have earned.
“The committee would like the ministry to conduct a study on the financial or other benefits achieved through these complimentary tickets vis-a-vis the cost involved therein during the last six years. They also recommend the ministry to frame stringent guidelines for issue of these complimentary tickets to prevent the possible misuse of public money,” it said.