Contending that airfares to Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata from their centres are "cheaper" than AC1 and AC2 train fares, the Hubli, Karnataka headquartered South Western Railway has approved its officials' request to fly to these destinations instead.
The General Manager, South Western Railway has approved the proposal which states that it would "increase productivity" as the travel time between any location in the railway zone to these tier 1 cities is "more than 12 hours."
"The one way travel time by train from any location in SWR to Delhi/Mumbai/Kolkata is more than 12 hours...it can be seen that flight fares of private airlines on mostly travelled routes are cheaper than that of 1AC/2AC train fares," the Deputy General Manager of the zone has proposed in a letter to the GM seeking his approval for air-travel for senior officials on July 31.
It also said that meetings at Railway Board are arranged at short notice and permitting air travel will enable officers for "quick movement" from headquarters or division to Delhi.
The GM of SWR had approved the same on August 1.
"Branch officials are important people. If they are going to Delhi, it would take officers three days to travel for a two-hour meeting. This is in line with Central government procedures," GM, SWR Ajay Kumar Singh told PTI.
The order comes a year after the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) in its report had argued that a comparison with air fare for 13 sectors showed that travelling by aeroplane was cheaper than in train for a large number of routes.
When compared to the cost and time taken for travel by premium trains, air fare became a cheaper and preferable mode of travel, the auditor had said in its report.
Since then, the railways have taken measures to address the issue by cutting down the number of trains in which dynamic pricing was applicable. As of now, according to a recent reply in Lok Sabha by the ministry, the scheme is prevalent in around 141 trains.
"With a view to improve the productivity of officers and a process reform on SWR, it is proposed to permit officers up to JS level to travel both ways by air when train travel one way takes more than 12 hours," the letter stated.