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Chugging soon: premium trains

- Railway takes flight path by introducing dynamic fares

Calcutta, Feb. 12: The interim railway budget presented in Parliament today has proposed something called “premium trains”. The vote-on-account did not revise fares or freight but mooted 72 new trains. The following are answers to your questions on the premium trains:

What is a premium train?

A train with dynamic fares that can vary with demand like in flights. The train berths are sold at a premium; hence the name.

How many premium trains will there be?

Seventeen, of which four will be from Bengal and one will pass through the state. Initially, the trains will have AC two-tier and three-tier coaches. A pilot project was launched in December 2013 between Delhi and Mumbai. The pilot was non-stop but some officials expressed the fear that popular demand may force breaks before the terminal station.

Which routes will be covered from Bengal?

Howrah-Pune AC Express (bi-weekly) via Nagpur, Manmad.

Howrah-Mumbai AC Express (bi-weekly) via Nagpur, Raipur.

Sealdah-Jodhpur AC Express (bi-weekly) via Mughalsarai.

Howrah-Katra Express (weekly) via Mughalsarai, Varanasi, Saharanpur. Plus Kamakhya-Chennai AC Express (weekly via Malda, Howrah)

What will be the fares?

According to railway officials, the fares for a particular route will be determined on the basis of the Tatkal rate there. In routes where the Rajdhani Express runs, the Tatkal fare of a particular class of Rajdhani will be the base fare in a premium train (surcharges will be additional). On other routes, Duronto or another superfast train could be the yardstick.

The fares will be dynamic, which means as the demand for berths rises, the fares go up. The Delhi-Mumbai premium train sold tickets at double the Tatkal price. For reference, the Calcutta-Mumbai fares of Duronto are as follows. AC 2 tier: Rs 2,470 (normal fare); Rs 2,885 (Tatkal fare). AC 3-tier: Rs 1,695 (normal fare); Rs 2,055 (Tatkal fare)

Can the fare be raised to any level?

No. There will be a price cap, officials said, that was likely to be 100 per cent of the base fare. Officials are expected to monitor the prices of air tickets and ensure the premium train ticket prices remain lower than airfares.

How do I buy tickets?

Only online.

When can I start booking?

The booking window for the premium trains will open 15 days before date of journey.

What else should I know?

There will be no waiting list and no refund. Fare includes food.

And the fine print?

It’s the costliest but not the fastest.