Change only in name, as trains will continue to stop at all stations
Anantnag: Commuters in Kashmir will now have to pay up to three times the train fare for the plain fact that the trains in Kashmir will now be called “mail/express” and not passenger trains. This shocker from the Railways department has come at a time when train services have just resumed after a halt of almost 11 months.
Train services in Kashmir, which run between Banihal and Baramulla, were suspended in the first week of August 2019 when the Indian government abrogated Article-370 and converted the State of J&K to a Union Territory. The train services were resumed in January 2020, only to be suspended again in March as the Covid-19 pandemic broke out and a lockdown was enforced across the country.
This Monday, the services were resumed, with a substantial fare hike that has been made simply on the basis of a technicality.
“Earlier the fare between Baramulla and Banihal was 30 rupees. Now it has been hiked to 65 rupees,” a commuter told Kashmir Reader.
The real issue is with the short-distance travel, for which the fare has been hiked from 10 rupees to 30 rupees. That essentially means that a commuter has to shell out at least 30 rupees for boarding a train in Kashmir now.
“Now if I have to travel from, say, Anantnag to Bijbehara in south Kashmir, I will have to incur a cost of at least 50 rupees as the stations are located in the peripheries of these towns and the cost of travelling to the station will add to the expense,” said Ghulam Qadir, a resident of Anantnag.
He said that the road fare from Anantnag to Bijbehara is only between 10 and 20 rupees, depending on the ride. “Same is the case with travel between other stations,” commuters in south Kashmir said.
Kashmir Reader talked to a highly placed Railway official to understand the fee hike. The official said that the trains in Kashmir were now “mail/express”and not passenger trains.
“So, the fare has been readjusted accordingly,” the official said. Asked about the difference between the two, the official said that the “mail/express” does not stop at all the stations while a passenger train does.
“But in Kashmir, despite the train being called a mail/express, it will stop at all the stations, just like a passenger train. Essentially, the people will be paying more fare only because the name of the train has been changed,” the official said, requesting not to be named.
He added that the changes have been made by the higher-ups and lowly officials like him have no say in such matters.
People in Kashmir were already grappling with the substantial toll tax levied on NH-44, which has escalated travel costs within the valley. “We were expecting that the resumption of train services will ease our woes, but even there the fare has been hiked. Long story short, we will have to spend more than we earn now,” Imtiyaz Ahmad, a daily commuter between Anantnag and Srinagar, told Kashmir Reader.