Senior citizen concession: Loss to Railways lowest in lower classes

Non-AC Sleeper and unreserved general class train tickets make up around 40 per cent of the total travel concessions availed by senior citizens, according to Railways data. Ticket concessions for senior citizens have been stopped for more than two years citing pandemic-related concerns, and during the ongoing Monsoon session of Parliament, the Railways Minister had told Lok Sabha that restarting the concession “is not desirable”.

Before the pandemic, in the year 2019-20, senior citizens availed of concessions amounting to Rs 1,667 crore in all classes of rail travel. This was a growth of about 1.8 per cent over the previous year’s figure.

The revenue foregone by the Railways on account of unreserved tickets, which is mostly the lowest class of train travel, is about Rs 215 crore. The non-AC Sleeper segment saw revenue foregone to the tune of around Rs 451 crore that year.

Amid a rising clamour for the restoration of senior citizen concessions, the political dispensation is looking for ways to bring it back in an avatar that is least burdensome on Railways’ coffers. Sources said that since the revenue loss from concessions availed in non-AC Sleeper and general class are lower than in higher classes, the possibility of bringing it back in these two classes are being studied.

Data reviewed by The Indian Express show that while the overall senior citizen concession burden on account of revenue foregone increased from Rs 1,492 crore in 2017-18 to Rs 1,667 crore in 2019-20, concession availed through unreserved ticketing system has remained more or less at a standard Rs 200 crore or thereabouts each year. In 2017-18, Rs 212 crore was the burden, which increased to Rs 223 crore the following year, but came down to Rs 215 crore in 2019-20.

Similarly, revenue loss on account of non-AC Sleeper class, increased from Rs 427 crore in 2017-18 to Rs 458 crore the following year, but came down to Rs 451 crore the next year.

All train operations were suspended in the wake of the nationwide lockdown in the last week of March 2020.
The revenue loss on account of senior citizen concession in the most popular class, AC III-tier, had continued to increase year after year. In 2017-18 the loss was Rs 419 crore, which jumped to Rs 474 crore the next year, and in 2019-20, it was around Rs 504 crore. Without concessions, Railways actually makes a small profit in AC-III tier class. Similar is the growth in AC II-tier, which saw revenue foregone rising from Rs 247 crore four years ago to Rs 285 crore in 2019-20.

Senior citizens — women at 58 years and above and men at 60 years and above — were entitled to the concession.

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