Holiday rush in India: No tickets on trains; bus rates steep

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Bengaluru: It’s the year-end holiday rush, and if you haven’t got your tickets yet, you might have to stay home or pay a steep price to get to your holiday destination. Susan Jacob, HR professional who wants to be with her family in Kerala for Christmas, doesn’t appear to have any option other than to drive out, though it’s inconvenient and more expensive than a train.

“I tried booking train tickets for the Christmas holidays the very day counters opened two months ago. But I couldn’t get a ticket. Earlier, ticket rates were fixed. Now all that is gone. As the holiday season approaches, they introduce a train or bus they conveniently call ‘special’ and charge four or five times more than the normal rate. A ticket to Kerala costs a minimum of Rs 3,500 now on a special train, as against Rs 800-1,000 earlier by regular trains. Even hiring a taxi would be less expensive,” she said. Every train is running chock-a-block. Udyan Express between Bengaluru and Mumbai has people waitlisted in every class of travel for December 24, with the number as high as 62 in three-tier AC, and 120 in the sleeper class. Kochuveli Express to Kerala has 46 people waitlisted in two-tier AC, 74 in three-tier AC and 297 in the sleeper class for travel on December 24. On Christmas day, it’s almost as bad. The weekly Vasco Express to Goa has 20 people waitlisted in three-tier AC, 35 people in three-tier AC and 72 people in sleeper class for December 30. Mangalore Express has 50 waitlisted in the chair car and 111 waitlisted in second class. Sources in the Bengaluru division of South Western Railway said they would not introduce special trains this year to clear the holiday rush.
Tickets on long-distance buses are available, but many are priced much higher than in normal times. Some 1,500 private buses go daily from Bengaluru to various inter-state locations during the festive break, with Goa, Kerala and Mumbai being the favourite destinations.
“The operational costs in running extra buses are high. It’s mostly one-sided load; on the return, the passenger volume drops drastically. To break even, we need to have higher ticket rates, which upsets passengers,” said Suresh Sharma, president of the All India Tourist Transport Operators, Karnataka, and proprietor of Sharma Transport. The rush to book bus tickets increases closer to the holiday season. Bus operators expect their seats to be sold out soon. But some travellers are confident of getting tickets even on the eve of their travel. Maneesha Rao, final-year communications student, said, “I’m planning to leave for Hyderabad around New Year’s and although it may be a little crowded because of the year-end rush, I expect to get a seat on one of the buses.”