No More Seat Confirmation Woes As Railways Unveils Vikalp Scheme.
From 1 April, wait-listed railway passengers will have the opportunity to travel in premier trains like the Rajdhani or the Shatabdi, even if their booked tickets in some other train for the same destination has not been confirmed.
In a bid to improve number of confirmed berths in trains, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu announced the launch of an alternate train accommodation scheme, named Vikalp, which will come into effect from 1 April.
As of now, the scheme is only available on online bookings. It will later be extended to counters.
How Will Vikalp Work?
Under Vikalp, wait-listed passengers can get confirmed berths in the next alternate train if they opt for it while booking their tickets.
Depending on the alternatives available, the Railways can transfer the booking to an alternate train that is available within 12 hours of the scheduled departure of the original train.
However, as per the Railways, if a customer doesn’t wish to travel by the provided vikalp, they will have to pay cancellation charges as per the berth/train status in the alternate train. Current rules stipulate no refunds once the charts are prepared, and 50 percent deduction in cost of the ticket if one cancels between 12 and four hours before departure.
As per the scheme, passengers who opt for the Vikalp scheme while booking their tickets online will get an SMS alert confirming accommodation in the next train running on the route.
The name of the passenger who has been provided a berth in the alternative train will not figure in the wait-listed charts of the original train. A separate list of passengers transferred in alternative train will be provided along with the confirmed charts.
Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu has described Vikalp as a “passenger-friendly” scheme.
Some of our premier trains run with vacant berths at times and we hope those can be filled up through scaling up Vikalp scheme. It is for the passengers’ benefit.
What’s in It For the Railways?
After the introduction of flexi-fare system in premier trains, some berths are going vacant while. At the same time, many passengers could not be accommodated in other Mail or Express trains due to huge demand. As per its estimates, Vikalp will target about 1.5 lakh such berths which remain vacant on a daily basis during the lean season.
Additionally, the scheme is expected to help the Railways bring in extra revenue from ticket cancellations. The railways annually foregoes close to Rs 7,500 crore in refunds, out of which Rs 3,500 crore is on the account of cancellation of wait-listed tickets. The rest are for RAC and confirmed tickets which get cancelled for various reasons.
Ministry officials claim Vikalp will reduce the annual refund totals by the Railways.
We aim to achieve the twin objectives of providing confirmed berths to waitlisted passengers and ensure optimal utilisation of available accommodation by this scheme.
A senior railway ministry official
The railways maintains that in any case, these berths are running vacant and that since no additional cost is involved, the Railways will be able to save money.