HYDERABAD: Celebrating the festival of kites with your loved ones is a costly affair this year. A flight to Visakhapatnam for Sankranti would mean shelling out as much as Rs 46,500. With the festival right around the corner, the demand for transportation services has been growing in leaps and bounds. Though numerous special trains and extra buses were allotted for the purpose of tackling rush, the lack of seats and steep rise in prices during the long weekend have assured that complaints are still abound. While private bus rates witnessed a 20-30 per cent steep, there was at least three times the rise in the rates for train tickets.
A whopping rate of Rs 46,000 to reach Visakhapatnam is rather astonishing as the airfare in general hardly goes beyond Rs 10,000 for a round trip. For those planning to fly to Rajahmundry to skip the busy toll booths, the prices would range from Rs 22,000 to Rs 11,000 for a round trip in the coming three days. This is for a round trip that usually costs between Rs 5,000 and Rs 7,000.
From bus bays to railway platforms and even the airports, the rush to commute between the two Telugu speaking states, mostly from Telangana to Andhra Pradesh, has catapulted to large numbers. Even the buses that regularly ply between the two States have increased their prices due to the high demand. A 300-km bus travel to Tenali in Andhra Pradesh is set to cost anywhere between Rs 1,500 to Rs 2,000. Meanwhile during the non-festive season, the prices are less than Rs 500.
Similar spike in fares were also seen for passengers trying to book tickets for private bus travel. A bus journey in sleeper or semi-sleeper coaches for passengers travelling from Hyderabad can cost anywhere between Rs 1,000 and Rs 2,500 per seat. “Private bus operators operate about 100 extra buses mainly to AP destinations as majority of Hyderabadis travel to cities like Amalapuram, Kakinada, Visakhapatnam and Nellore, Vijayawada, Guntur etc,” said Telangana private bus operators.
With the public transport options running out, travelling by private vehicles is also set to get difficult as traffic is bound to be clogged at toll plazas. The Hyderabad-Vijayawada stretch is expected to witness a tremendous increase in traffic block.
Interestingly, there is one group that is especially benefitting from the non-availability of tickets among most public transport facilities -- the private taxi service. Reportedly, the taxi drivers are making big bucks right now. Cashing in on the demand, the city’s cab drivers are taking orders to go to Andhra Pradesh and back.
Ram Prasad, a commuter, asks, “We are travelling to Vizag from Secunderabad. While the rate is usually anywhere from Rs 250 to Rs 350 per person, it has tripled now. How do they expect people of low income to pay such prices when they are travelling with their families?”
Windows are the new doors
With the general compartments of trains jam-packed ahead of Sankranti, the railway stations are mired in chaos. Several commuters were found to be making way through the emergency window to guarantee at least a cramped space in the train, forget a seat. At the Secunderabad Railway Station alone, huge crowds are found pushing and pulling, amid the struggle to get tickets. With ticket rates at their peak, there is no dearth of complaints among passengers. Even the relatives who had come to see their acquaintances off lament that the rates for platform tickets too have been raised from Rs 10 to Rs 20, a move the SCR authorities are said to have taken in order to discourage large numbers of people from coming to see off their relatives. With reservations getting filled up at lightning speed, most of the passengers complain that despite waiting for the Tatkal tickets to get confirmed, they were left with no choice but to travel in unreserved compartments
60 unreserved special trains to be operated
The South Central Railway has decided to run 60 fully unreserved second-class Jansadharan Special Trains between important stations from January 10 to 20
The trains, with exclusive ladies’ coaches will run from Secunderabad/Hyderabad to Vijayawada; Secunderabad to Tirupati; Kakinada to Tirupati and Vijayawada to Vizianagaram
The trains are expected to carry around 1.20 lakh passengers
If passengers want to avoid the rush at unreserved booking counters, they can opt to buy tickets at the Jansadharan Ticket Booking Sewaks (JTBS) counters, Automatic Ticket Vending Machines (ATVMs), etc