Bhopal, Feb 24: In the past more than a year-and-a-half since the BJP-led NDA government came to power at the Centre, the Western Railway has come down drastically on passenger facilities and sharply cut frequency of special trains from as many as 7,039 to a mere 204, an RTI report has said.
According to a Right to Information response to a query filed by Chandrashekhar Gaur, a resident of Neemuch district in Madhya Pradesh, as many as 63 special trains made 3,371 rounds during 2011-12 and 65 trains made 7,039 rounds during 2013-14 in the western region.
In the year 2014-15, the number of special trains reduced to 47 which made 1,781 rounds, while this number has further reduced to 21 trains in 2015-16 with only 204 rounds completed.
While there was heavy deduction in the number and rounds of special trains operating in the region, several premium and luxury train services were started in 2013, the information provided by the Western Railway said.
As many as 17 premium trains made 476 rounds in 2013-14, while 11 premium trains and five luxury trains operated during 2015-16 to make 394 rounds.
The railways run special trains during festivals and holiday season as the number of passengers travelling during this period increases.
These special trains also have air-conditioned and sleeper coaches, and the fare is equivalent to mail or express trains.
Passengers have faced numerous difficulties due to the reduction in the rounds of the special trains.
"While travelling during the festival season, we realised that the railway has reduced the facilities provided to the general travellers," Gaur told IANS revealing the reason behind the RTI filed by him.
"While the railway has cut down on the facilities provided to the passengers, it has increased its income by operating premium and luxury services. These trains do not have general coaches, and the railway charges for a berth. No category -- children or elderly -- get discount and the railways do not pay any refund on cancellation of journey," Gaur said.
"The government is empowered for the welfare of citizens, not to do business. In the past few years, the Western Railway, by deducting the facilities, has proved that the government is no more looking after the welfare of the people," he said.
"The government is not bound to run such special trains. But the railway ministry had been running such trains keeping in mind the people's needs," senior journalist Arvind Singh, who has served as an advisor to the railways ministry for a long time, told IANS.
"Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu has focused on income rather than the welfare of the travelling public. He has terminated the scheme of reduced ticket price for children. One should not hope for special trains under the present government," Singh told IANS over phone from New Delhi.