MUMBAI (Metro Rail News): Get ready to pay more for making an online reservation for train journeys. Service charge, which was earlier withdrawn to promote digital transactions, will soon be reintroduced for e-tickets. Earlier, service charge for sleeper class was Rs 20 and Rs 40 for AC compartment seats.
A Railway Ministry letter dated August 3, of which Mirror has a copy, has announced restoration of this operation cost which includes marketing and after-sales service. The service charge for e-tickets had existed until November 2016, just before demonetization.
This money was used by the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) to fund its e-ticketing system. According to sources, the Ministry of Finance (MoF) advised the railways to discontinue the charge with the promise that the department’s operating costs will be reimbursed. On July 19 this year, the MoF informed the railways in writing that the reimbursement of operation costs for e-ticketing to IRCTC was a “temporary arrangement in special context for a limited period of time”.
Initially, the directive was to not levy service charge till June 2017, but later the timeline was extended multiple times and no service charge is levied until now. During this period, IRCTC’s revenues took a big hit as a service charge was a major source of revenue for the railway arm.
According to sources, IRCTC was to be reimbursed around Rs 88 crore by MoF but even this wasn’t sufficient.
The letter, written by BS Kiran, who is joint director traffic commercial (general) of the Railway Board, further empowers railways to restore the service charge and the quantum to be levied.
According to sources, the matter will be taken up by the directors of IRCTC and the amount will in all probability be the same as before. The passengers Mumbai Mirror spoke to are not happy with this move. “It’s totally against the interest of passengers. Railways should bear the service charge as online booking reduced their expenses,” said Subhash Gupta, member of Zonal Railway Users’ Consultative Council, Central Railway.
Gupta added that online booking reduces the number of windows, booking clerks and other expenses required for the department to function. Shailesh Goyal, the former member of the council, also opposed this decision and said the sale of tickets is the responsibility of railways.
“Imposing service charge on the passengers is not a fair decision. It’s for the railways to bear the cost,” he said. According to railway officials, it has been incurring losses despite the MoF reimbursing a certain amount in lieu of the exemption.
They told Mirror that restoration of the charge will generate at least Rs 200 crore for railways and the amount is essential in meeting the escalating costs of maintaining the IRCTC website and keeping all safeguards in place to dissuade the touts from booking tickets illegally.