The railway ministry is planning to launch 15 more Duronto Express trains in the coming budget, as the end-to-end non-stop train has caught the fancy of passengers.
The ministry has made a list of 40 routes in 28 high-density sectors. Of these, depending on availability of rakes, 15 Durontos are expected to be announced on various routes, including Mumbai-Chennai, Bhubaneswar-Varanasi, Patna-Yesvantpur, Lucknow-Guwahati, Guwahati-Chennai, Amritsar-Darbhanga and Howrah-Chennai.
The railways, which undertook a demand study on some of these routes, say the number of seats is much less than the demand, and it will be profitable to run Durontos on these routes. For instance, on the Howrah-Chennai route, the demand is 48 per cent more than the capacity, while on the Delhi-Guwahati route, the gap is as high as 60 per cent.
The railways have introduced nine Durontos to date out of the 14 declared in last year's budget that was presented in July - Howrah-Yesvantpur, Sealdah-New Delhi, Chennai-Nizamuddin, Howrah-Mumbai, Pune-Nizamuddin, Nagpur-Mumbai, Ahmedabad-Mumbai, New Delhi-Lucknow and New Delhi-Allahabad.
"Durontos are reporting good occupancy rates. The trains provide faster travel at affordable prices. Services on board have also been appreciated," said a senior official at the ministry.
According to the railway ministry, the average occupancy rate in seven Duronto trains varies in the range of 72-106 per cent (data for two newly-launched Durontos are not available). While the Sealdah-New Delhi Duronto has had an occupancy rate (the percentage of seats booked) of 100 per cent since its launch in September last year, Nagpur-Mumbai and Howrah-Yeshvantpur Durontos have occupancy rates of around 105 per cent (the number is higher than the total number of seats available because of the reservation against cancellation scheme that allows two people to share a berth).
"Rajdhanis run between the national capital and important cities. Durontos provide services between any pair of important cities. The fare is lower and the time taken for the journey is lesser, which has resulted in the service gaining popularity," said the official.
The Sealdah-New Delhi Duronto Express, for instance, takes one-and-a-half hour less than Rajdhani. This is because it has no commercial stoppages and halts only at Dhanbad, Kanpur and Mughalsarai for operational purposes.
However, this does not mean that Rajdhani has lost its importance. Unlike Duronto, Rajdhani is a daily train and has more stoppages, and therefore, more cities to get passengers. The average occupancy rate ranges between 83 per cent and 131 per cent.
More importantly, Durontos are making money on some routes. On some routes, the ministry is making more money than estimated. For instance, the ministry is earning 4 per cent more than what it had estimated on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad route and 3 per cent more on the Nagpur-Mumbai route. On most routes, the railways have reached an average of 90-95 per cent of its earning targets.