Tourists travelling to Mysore for Dasara 2012 will miss the luxury and comfort of the spacious and modern Linke Hoffman Bush (LHB) refurbished coaches on the Mysore- Chennai Shatabdi Express, as Railways could continue running the train using the ordinary AC III-tier sleeper coaches beyond October.
The non-availability of spares could lead to a delay in starting operations using LHB coaches on the train, according to Railway sources. LHB coaches were introduced in place of the ordinary AC second sitting coaches for the Shatabdi Express about two years ago.
All the seven LHB coaches of the train are refurbished coaches that were earlier being used on the New Delhi-Amritsar Swarna Shatabdi Express and are presently under intensive overhaul at the Integrated Coach Factory in Perumbur, Chennai, following complaints of breakdown of the heating and cooling equipment used for catering on the train, over a year ago. The Mysore — Chennai Shatabdi is an important fast train that helps tourists travelling from Chennai and Bangalore to the premier tourist destination. Several foreign tourists travel to Mysore during the Dasara season on this train. The number of passengers has been significantly high this year with no commercial passenger flights operating to Mysore after the last Dasara. Kingfisher Airlines, which launched its services during Dasara in October 2010, withdrew its services after a year.
Details of passenger traffic and earnings available to Business Standard indicated that the train running from Chennai to Mysore via Bangalore had a booking rate of 128.06 per cent and passenger earnings were at 97.76 per cent in the last seven months. On the opposite direction, from Mysore to Chennai via Bangalore, it had a booking rate of 138.83 per cent and passenger earnings were at 104.02 per cent during the same period. “It is not the revenues that has led to the bad maintenance of the train but a poor management system and a lack of planning,” a Railway official lamented.
The use of ordinary coaches on the Shatabdi has led to disappointment among commuters. Susan Whitney, a first time traveler from California, expressed her disappointment at not being able to enjoy the picturesque journey in the wide-window and spacious coaches that she had read about.
Sindhu, another passenger, wondered if those coaches would be ready before Dasara when she was expecting guests at home.
In a recent whitepaper, the Railways claim to be incurring losses of Rs 25,000 crore every year in passenger services, which translates to about 18 paise per passenger per km. There are about 22 million passengers being ferried by the Railways everyday. Even by increasing the fare by a rupee, the Railways could gain about Rs 800 crore ever year and utilise the money for better maintenance of the trains. “It’s surprising that they don’t want to increase the fares, which haven’t been touched in the last several years,” Sindhu remarked.
The LHB coaches provide 10 to 12 per cent increase in the carrying capacity, and are light weight, resulting in lesser fuel consumption and offer additional safety features such as air breaks and improved suspension system that ensures more riding comfort.
They are capable of running at speeds of 160 kilometre per hour and cost about Rs 2 crore each to build. Shatabdi Express trains are prestigious trains of the Indian Railways. The Mysore-Chennai Shatabdi was introduced in 1994 by then Railway Minister CK Jaffer Shariff and is the fourth in the series of Shatabdi Express trains introduced in the country.