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Railways - affordable vs. progressive

I have been travelling by train a lot lately and as most people will agree that railways have improved quite a lot in the past few days. The cleanliness has improved, and trains run more timely than earlier. Railway stations are also improving - better facilities are in place (Kiosks, Cyber Cafes, vending machines etc.) and the staff is more 'friendly'.

At the same time, the price of railway travel has gone up - even though nominally. In addition to increase in fares, new overheads are been added. For example, now if you book a ticket for a different destination than the location from where you are booking your ticket - you have to pay a surcharge. (Internet booking always had a surcharge).

The question is - is the price rise justified in wake of the fact that Railways are the primary mode of transport for the weaker economic sections of the society as well? I think yes.

Take the case of railways introducing better toilets - each toilet will cost Rs 60K ($1500) - this apportioned among each passenger comes out to about 33 paisa*. Now this is a cost that isn't heavy even for the lowest economic classes - so it is better you make them used to expecting a better service than give them a shoddy service just for the want of a meagre 33p.

Another perspective comes from Ayn Rand's philosophy - unless you provide a challenge to people, progress does not come. Its better if train services improve even at the cost of fare rise (but remain within affordable limits), so that people are challenged to earn more in order to be able to afford the higher fares - and they expect high quality of services from railways.

Sounds like words from a citizen of the world's fastest growing free market economy? They are indeed - even the government accepts it now.

* Per day
Passengers 80,000,000
Trains 11,000
Passengers/ Train 7,273


Cost of Toilet 60,000
Number of toilets in a train 4
Assuming a 100 day payback period
Cost / passenger
0.33

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