Chaos resigned as all signboards at Jammu Railway station flashed the horrifying announcement: All trains leaving the temple city on Sunday evening stand cancelled. To make matters worse there was no one to explain the sudden decision to shocked passengers. Unusual situations call for unusual response. Many passengers stayed put at the station itself while others retreated back into the city desperately looking for shelter. To confound the confusion, Railways resumed normal services in a few hours. The resumption came as unannounced as the cancellation. Admitted this was a one off incident but it showed Railways had little respect for the consumer. Indian Railways, which ferries about 23 million passengers daily, is long awaiting a paradigm shift in its service orientation. It has to embrace technology. Digital India offers a great opportunity. Excessive focus on fare politics has to end to deliver a new age service quality.
The Railways ministry under Suresh Prabhu deserves praise for some out of box thinking. Battling unsuccessfully the ever growing passenger push, Railways proposes to tie-up with airline operators to accommodate its wait listed passengers at a minor extra cost. For decades Railways has sought to fight airlines quoting tariff as a weapon. Now is the time for some strategic alliances putting consumer interest above all. The arrangement in works is with Spice Jet but must include other airlines as well. Earlier, under Laloo Prasad Yadav, the Tatkal quota was expanded adding to passenger comfort and Railway revenues. It is another matter brokers usurped the Tatkal quota charging extra money under the table. The dynamic fare charged now under the Premium Train series too is a good move. It shows the confidence to be radical without being hostage to legacy issues.