AC 2 way cheaper than flying, AC 1 costliest

Average rail fares will continue to be cheaper than air fares after the rail budget. Travelling first-class AC on most Rajdhani trains, however, will cost nearly Rs 800-1,000 higher than the cheapest air fares available to the same destination. At the same time, the difference between AC two-tier fares and air fares remains high despite the recent discounts offered by various airlines on domestic routes.

Basic passenger fares remain unchanged in the budget after a hike across the board last month to net Rs 6,600 crore annually. Passengers will, however, need to shell out more than earlier as the budget has marginally increased the supplementary charge for superfast trains, the reservation fee, the clerkage charge, the cancellation charge and the tatkal charge.

On the New Delhi-Mumbai route, for example, the one-way fare for AC first class becomes Rs 3,920 while the air fare on the same route is around Rs 3,201. The AC two-tier fare is Rs 2,325.

The travel industry was pleased there was no increase in basic railway fares. "We expected that after the recent increase of rail fare, there will be no increase in the budget," said Subhash Goyal, president of Indian Association of Tour Operators. However, he echoed the railway minister's concerns on the quality of services offered in trains.

Travel agents said that due to the high difference between air and second AC rail fares, people who have the time will continue to prefer railways.

"The cheapest airfares are nearly twice the second AC fares; third AC is even cheaper," said a Mumbai-based agent affiliated to Travel Agents Association of India.

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