Children travelling with half-fare train tickets will not be allotted reserved berths starting April 22 as the Indian Railways reportedly decided to boost the state-run transporter's revenue. At present, children in the age group of five years to 12 years are allotted separate seats at half the adult fare.
After the new scheme is implemented, parents will have to either pay full fare and get reserved berths for their children or share their berths with them. The Indian Railways had taken the decision to do away with the existing half-fare system for children in December last year.
By scrapping reservation system on half-fare ticket, the Indian Railways would have around 20 million berths in a year to allot it to other passengers, in addition to boosting its revenue by approximately Rs 550 crore, the Mint reported.
"We took this cue from air travel, where the kids are charged for the full ticket and avail a seat. Our estimates show that around 21-22 million kids travel on half-ticket annually in our trains and they avail the seat/berth, a rule which has been going on for decades," a railway official, who did not wish to be named, said.
The decision is expected to affect the middle class families in India, the New Indian Express quoted the Madurai Divisional Railway Users' Consultative Committee member V Manoharan as saying.
"A section of middle class passengers will think twice if they want to take their children with them on a train. For a Chennai-Madurai journey, a person with two kids will have to spend '600 more in sleeper class. The increase in expenditure will be a burden for them," he said.
Questioning the Indian Railways for charging full fare for Reservation Against Cancellation (RAC) tickets, Manoharan said: "If allotting a berth for a kid can attract full fare, then the Railways should also refund the 50 per cent of the charges for RAC travellers."
Kanyakumari District Railway Users' Association Secretary P Edward Jeni appreciated the move, but suggested that parents who will be sharing berths with their children should be given lower berths as upper and middle ones can be risky or cause inconvenience.
"Most times, children below 10 sleep with either of the parent because of which the berths booked for them remain vacant. Considering the huge demand for reserved berths, it is not a bad idea to regularise berth allocation for kids," the NIE quoted Jeni as saying.
The half-fare ticket system will remain unchanged for unreserved class and there will also be no changes in the system for children below five years who travel ticket-free and without reserved seats.