Along with change in schedule, railways announced the rise in fare. The fare hike was planned in such a way that it was only affecting regular commuters. Railways almost doubled the charge of monthly season ticket. The effective date was not mentioned in the newspaper. It created a buzz among the commuters. Before it came into effect, commuters started planning to stop rail ministry from taking such step. Along with new time table and fare hike, rail ministry announced one more thing. Railways decided to convert some express trains into superfast trains. It was one of the ways of increasing the fare. Price of ticket in superfast train is more than price of ticket in express train.
Instead of increasing the fare, railways decided to go for conversion. In this way, the fare was going to increase automatically. On one hand we were going to pay more fare to railways and on other, we were about to loose some options. Commuters were at huge loss as monthly season ticket was allowed in express trains. Thus we were planning to stop government from taking such steps. In most of the matters, commuters had contrasting views, we fought with each other but in this matter all the commuters were agreeing on one point. A lot of commuters wrote to ministry of railways, some groups even started protests.
We (commuters) had two tasks on our hand. First, we had to stop the conversion of express trains into superfast trains. Second, we had to stop fare hike. Somewhere down the line we knew that ministry of railways will not agree on both the things but there was nothing wrong in trying. In the first week of November, railways declared the name of the express trains which were to be converted into superfast trains. Along with the names of trains, they declared new rates of monthly season ticket. There was no notification on the old rates and monthly season ticket for superfast trains. After that declaration, protests increased. Some groups started stopping running trains for hours. While some groups adopted dharna for few hours.
Commuters commuting from Ahmedabad to Vadodara and Vadodara to Surat were highly affected by the conversion. They highly depended on Gujarat mail express in the morning and railways was converting that train into a superfast train. After the conversion of Gujarat Mail express, commuters were left with no other option than Saurashtra Express. And Saurashtra Express was inconsistent with its timings. Commuters were not ready to compromise in reaching to their destination on time in the morning. So they were not in the mood of backing off. Every other day, one or the other person used to write a letter to ministry of railways. And they used to get support of all the commuters from Ahemdabad to Surat.
Some of those letters came in the Anand memu as well for signature. Those letters used to be one page of request and next four pages of signatures. There was immense support for each other during that time. Actually during that time, I came to know that how big our community is. After all protests and letters, notification from Indian Railways came out. In the first week of December, railways printed an update in newspapers. In that update, they announced the fare hike as monthly season ticket for superfast trains. Partially it was in our favour. There was no change in the conversion of the trains. The other thing which was in our favour was that they continued the old rates. In that notification, railways also declared that it will take effect from March 2016.
With the announcement of monthly season ticket for superfast trains, we were really happy that it will accepted in all superfast trains.
“Now we can come back home in the Navjeevan Superfast Express without any fear.” Dharmendra Sir reacted after the update.
“But monthly season ticket for superfast trains is almost double the price of current monthly season ticket.” I drew his attention towards money factor.
“I know that we will be paying double amount in monthly season ticket for superfast trains but we will be free from paying the fine to TCs. And not only Navjeevan, we can commute in any superfast train with that ticket.” Dharmendra Sir had a point.
“That monthly season ticket for superfast trains will be allowed only in the converted trains.” Dwarkesh Kaka brought a new angle in that update by railways.
“What? Are you interpreting it? Or it is an inside news?” I wanted know on what basis Dwarkesh Kaka was saying that.
“I am not interpreting the update. People in my office were talking about it and I heard them saying this.” Dwarkesh Kaka revealed the secret behind this news.
“Okay. Let’s do one thing, after reaching Anand. Let’s ask about it at ticket counter or at inquiry,” To clear our doubts, I suggested a way and everyone agreed.
We went to the ticket counter after reaching at Anand station. And they confirmed that monthly season ticket for superfast trains will be allowed only in converted trains not in all superfast trains. The update related to price rise was not in our favour even partially. Ticket seller also revealed that department hasn’t increased the rates on monthly season ticket since last fifteen years and the revenue generated from passenger trains is only 5% of total revenue. So ministry will not hear anything regarding fare hike or conversion. The two facts which ticket seller revealed were shocking.
It was clear that if we have to commute via train then we have to accept it. Highlight of the whole incident was the unanimity among the commuters.