Passengers struggle to book train tickets to major cities as demand soars from those returning to work, colleges, schools

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Indian Railways is also working with state governments to fully restore services in some states.(Representative image)

Passengers are struggling to get confirmed berths on trains to most major metropolitan citiesas demand for travel has seen an exponential rise since Holi after most states eased COVID-19 restrictions, allowing offices, colleges and schools to reopen.

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Commuters who are looking to book tickets online to Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, Lucknow, Kolkata and Kochi are among those struggling the most as many super-fast trains including the Rajdhani Express, Shatabdi Express and Duronto Express are operating at 100 percent capacity since March 18.

“Train bookings have risen around 1.5 times since the Holi weekend compared to the end of February and bookings are expected to remain strong till at least mid-April,” an official from the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) told Moneycontrol.

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Last month, the Indian Railways had announced it would operate 120 more special trains to cater to the rush of passengers expected around Holi.

Senior officials from the Ministry of Railways also said that data for the next 10 days indicates that there is an extra rush to travel to metropolitan cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Kochi and Bengaluru.

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“Colleges, school and even offices have reopened across the country, plus there is the rush from people who had travelled back to their home states during Holi. A combination of all these factors has created a temporary rush,” a senior government official said.

The average railway ticket bookings recorded by IRCTC have risen to around 16.5 lakh per day since March 10 compared to around 12 lakh bookings seen in February and around 9 lakh in January, an official in the Railway Ministry said.

“For the 10-day period between April 8 and April 17, 277 trains are scheduled to make 1,453 trips in the Mumbai region. So far, 19,74,000 tickets have been booked indicating an occupancy rate of 90 percent,” the official added.

The official also pointed out that the ministry is keeping a close watch on the high occupancy routes witnessing longer waiting lists.

According to a second rail ministry official, the waiting lists of AC Tier-II and AC Tier-III coaches of some major super-fast trains had risen to around 100 on weekends and around 75 on weekdays for the upcoming two weeks.

According to data available from IRCTC and Rail Yatri portals, New Delhi-Patna Sampoorna Kranti Express has no confirmed berth available either in AC or sleeper coaches till April 13.

Similarly, confirmed berths are not available on the Weekly Superfast Bandra Terminus – Lucknow Express in any class till April 15.

The Mumbai Central-Ahmedabad Gujarat SF Express train is also completely booked till April 12.

However, officials said that there is no shortage of trains and the temporary shortage of tickets is a seasonal factor. The Railways is constantly working to address the rise in demand, they added.

“As many as 1,850 long-distance mail/express trains are currently operating in India which is even higher than the average number of trains that were operated during pre-COVID times,” the first railway official said.

However, the official added that Indian Railways is also working with state governments to fully restore services in some states.

“In some states like Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, among others, COVID-19 restrictions are still in place, and hence, full restoration of services has not been achieved,” he added.

Further, he said that demand for suburban rail services has also been on the rise since March and the Indian Railways is working to restore those services as well.

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