Why does it cost more to cross platforms in railway stations compared to crossing the city by taxi?

There have been some appreciable changes in Indian railways especially its immediate responses to complaints sent via twitter while traveling. However, somethings have not changed at all.

One of them is the luggage transportation system within the station. It is highly ironical that one pays more to just cross a few meters of platforms compared to a taxi which travels many a kilometres within the city.

This is all because there is just no alternate to the porter/coolie system which charges all kinds of prices. The services are hopelessly monopolised with no other alternate but to pay crazy fares. One can only negotiate so much. There is also a kind of cartel which means if you reject someone’s services, other will not pick it up. So you have little choice.

It is even more ironical that you pay more to hire those trolleys which are available for free at airports (though in west they charge you for trolleys as well). I remember how one asked for hefty price just to cross one platform on Mumbai Central Station saying after all we are moving your luggage on the trolley.

Compare this to the taxi system. There was a time when taxis would cost as much well as it was all unionised. But thanks to introduction of competition and multiple players, inter-city taxi prices have come down. One is now travelling from and to various places at a fraction of a price compared to a few years. If one is lucky and there is less traffic, the fare could be less than half of what one paid when there was no competition. With many discount etc offers, the trip could be free as well.

No such luck with inter railway station transport as one continues to be fleeced. On some stations, railways has installed escalators and so on but it  can be used by younger travelers with light luggage. The older people with even light luggage have no choice but to ask for porter service.

One obvious suggestion would be to cap these charges . There will be a base fare and a variable charge for distance of platforms. So, say base price is Rs 50 which means people pay that for Platform 1. The variable charge is Rs 25 so those on Platform 2 pay Rs 50 and an additional Rs 25. Platform 3 pays Rs 50 as base and Rs 50 as variable..And so on…

But such a capping always leads to inefficient outcomes. The porters are likely to limit their services as demand is much more than supply at these prices.

A better solution would be to try and usher some competition in this porter space. Getting private companies to compete with existing system could lead to some respite but is a highly politicised decision. It will lead to strikes as seen in case of taxis earlier.

One could use some technology. Stations/platforms which have step escalators could be replaced by belt like escalators in airports and malls.  Trolleys could be made available to atleast those who can manage it.

In some stations there is no overbridge like Mumbai Central and CST and simple availability of trolleys can be really useful. In other stations it has to be a case by case basis.

There could be many more such ideas and people can be asked for their suggestions to bring differences in railway stations.

All this will most likely lead to strong opposition and dissent. But the existing system’s unfairness has asked for it..


One Response to “Why does it cost more to cross platforms in railway stations compared to crossing the city by taxi?”

  1. amitanam Says:


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