Under pressure from passengers over hike in fares, the railways on Friday issued an order to discontinue the 'special' tag for mail and express trains and revert to pre-pandemic ticket prices with immediate effect.
Since the coronavirus-triggered lockdown was eased, the railways has been running only special trains.
It started with long-distance trains and now, even short-distance passenger services are being run as special trains with 'slightly higher fares' to 'discourage people from avoidable travels.'
In a letter to the zonal railways on Friday, the railway board said trains will now be operated with their regular numbers and fares will revert to normal pre-Covid prices.
Ticket prices of special trains and holiday special trains are marginally higher.
"In view of the COVID-19 pandemic, all regular mail/express trains were being operated as mail/express special and holiday special. It has now been decided that the MSPC and HSP train services, included in the working time table, 2021, shall be operated with regular numbers and with fares as applicable for the concerned classes of travel and type of train, as per the extant guidelines," it said.
"This issues with the concurrence of passenger marketing directorate of railway board," the order dated November 12 said.
In another order, the railway board clarified that the second class of such trains shall continue to run as reserved except for any relaxation permitted in a special case.
It also said that for tickets booked in advance, no difference of fare either is to be collected by Railways or any refund shall be permitted. Neither order however specifies when the zonal railways are required to revert to their pre-Covid regular services.
"The zonal railways have been instructed. While the order is with immediate effect, the process will take a day or two," a senior official said.
"With this, more than 1,700 trains will be restored in the next few days. The first digit will now not be zero as was in the case of special trains," another official said.
Officials, however, said curbs introduced because of Covid, such as temporary restrictions on concessions, bedrolls and meal services, would remain in effect.
With the operation of special trains and no concessions, the railways' revenue has seen substantial growth. The transporter registered an increase of 113 per cent in earnings from the passenger segment during the second quarter of 2021-2022 as compared to the first.