Beginning from April 1, 2017, the waitlisted rail passengers may have the opportunity to travel in premier Rajdhani, Shatabdi, and Duronto trains at regular fares even if they had booked tickets for other mail or express trains.
- A new scheme has been introduced by Indian Railways under the name & style of “VIKALP Scheme”.
- It may be noted that “VIKALP” is a Hindi word which means “Alternative”. The scheme was launched on March 22, 2017 by Union Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu and it will become applicable from April 1, 2017.
- The scheme will provide brilliant opportunity to the rail passengers on the waiting lists to get confirmed accommodation on next train running on the same route if they opt for the option VIKALP while booking their tickets.
- This scheme was initially launched as a pilot project on November 1, 2016 on the busy Delhi-Lucknow, Delhi-Jammu, and Delhi-Chennai routes and now it will be applicable on all major train routes in the country.
- Currently, this facility would be available for the online ticketing i.e. e-ticketing whereas for Over the Counter bookings i.e. Passenger Reservation Service (PRS) - the software is still under development process and this facility would be made available soon for the PRS system also.
Benefits to the Rail Passengers:
- If any passenger opts for the VIKALP Scheme while booking tickets, he/she will receive SMS alert on mobile phone about getting confirmed accommodation in an alternative train.
- Only those of the rail passengers who remain fully waitlisted even after charting of the original train will only be considered for allotment in the alternate train.
- With this, the waitlisted passengers of any express or mail train can get confirmed accommodation in the next alternative trains, running on the same route within 12 hours.
- The journey in the premier trains like Rajdhani Express or Shatabdi Express will be allowed at regular fares but only for the same destination for which the original ticket had been booked in other express trains.
- This scheme will shorten the waitlists by providing confirmed berths to as many waitlisted passengers as possible.
Benefit to the Indian Railways:
- Indian Railways has to sacrifice about Rs 7500 Crores in a year in refund to customers for cancellation of tickets for various reasons including non-availability of confirmed seats.
- With the launch of this scheme, Indian Railways would have the combined benefits of optimal occupancy rates in all the trains through the maximum utilization of vacant berths in many premium trains including Rajdhani, Shatabdi, Duronto and other Special Trains such as Suvidha Trains on all major routes and earn more the revenues by issuing fewer quanta of refunds and also save costs on issue of refunds.
- The vacancy of berths in premium trains is around 12%.
- Indian Railways also aims to beat the festive rush when demand for a particular route is at its peak. In other words, the scheme aims to make maximum use of vacant berths in all the trains including the premium trains.
Cancellations and Refunds:
- There would neither be any extra charge levied on the passengers for the premium alternative train nor any refund would be made for the difference of fare if there is less fare on the alternative train. Moreover, under this scheme, no refund will be allowed once the chart is prepared.
- Cancellation of confirmed tickets, even before the preparation of the charts, will also invite hefty deductions.
- 50% of the cost of the ticket is deducted if one cancels between 12 hours to 4 hours before departure. Passengers will not be allowed to opt for the original train once their tickets are confirmed under Vikalp Scheme on the alternative train.
This VIKALP Scheme, if executed with great precision, would prove to be beneficial not only for the rail-passengers but also for the Indian Railways.
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