A Parliamentary Standing Committee in its recent report has slammed the Railways for giving “free passes” complimentary tickets to travel on luxury trains even though they have been running with occupancy of just 30 per cent. The parliamentary panel has listed the names of hundreds of passengers who travelled for free on the recommendations of officials of the Railway Board and Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) on five luxury trains where fares range from USD 500 to USD 650 (Approx Rs 31,637 .50-41,128.75 as per current exchange rate).
Most of the travellers were railway officials.
“The committee are dismayed to note that the provision of complimentary travel is continuing in these luxury trains on the recommendation of either Railway Board or IRCTC or state tourism Development Corporation,” the report of the committee chaired by MP Sudip Bandyopadhyay said.
Luxury Tourist Trains are premier luxury services offered by Railways/IRCTC in collaboration with state tourism development corporations. The Railways run five luxury trains including the Maharaja Express, Golden Chariot, Deccan Odyssey and Palace on Wheels.
The report stated that 30 passengers travelled free of cost in the Maharaja Express in 2012-13, 97 in 2013-2014, 53 in 2014-2015 and 73 passengers in 2015-2016. “The committee fails to understand the need to provide complimentary travel when these luxury trains have hardly been generating the revenue to meet their own working expenses,” the report said.
The committee also gave a list of other trains such as the Palace on Wheels and Royal Rajasthan on Wheels, with the names of passengers who were given complimentary tickets.
The list of people who travelled free included a former personal secretary and a former Officer on Special Duty (OSD) to Railway Minister and various Divisional Managers of zonal railways. For Palace on Wheels, close to 50 complimentary tickets worth USD 500 per person were distributed in 2011 to top railway officers.