In the face of criticism from several quarters, the Railways is mulling the restoration of senior citizen concessions but for general and sleeper classes only, sources said here.
Also on the cards is tweaking the age criteria by extending the concessional fare to those above 70 years, as against the earlier 58 for women and 60 for men, they said.
The idea, the sources indicated, is to offset the cost of granting these concessions for the Railways while retaining the subsidy for the elderly.
"We understand that these concessions help the elderly and we never said we were going to scrap it completely. We are reviewing it and will take a decision on it," one of the sources said.
The sources indicated that the Railway Board is considering tweaking the age criteria for the senior citizen concession and extending it to only those above 70 years. This will limit the transporter's liability, they said.
Before being withdrawn during the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, the senior citizen concession was extended to women aged 58 and above and men aged 60 and above. While women were eligible for a 50 per cent concession, men and transgenders could avail 40 per cent discount in all classes.
Another provision the Railways is considering is to limit the concessions to non-AC travel only.
"The logic is that if we limit it to the sleeper and general classes, we cover 70 per cent of travellers. These are just some of the options we are considering and nothing has been finalised," a source said.
One other option the Railways is considering is to introduce the 'Premium Tatkal' scheme across all trains. This will help to generate higher revenue, which could offset the burden of the concessions. This scheme is currently applicable in around 80 trains.
The Premium Tatkal Scheme is a quota introduced by the Railways which reserves a few seats with a dynamic fare pricing. This quota is for the convenience of last-minute travellers willing to shell out a little extra. The Premium Tatkal fare comprises the basic train fare plus additional Tatkal charges.
Over the last two decades, railway concessions have been a much-discussed topic with multiple committees recommending their withdrawal. As a result of this, in July 2016, the Railways made the concession for the elderly optional.
The national transporter incurs a huge burden of around Rs 2,000 crore every year due to over 50 types of concessions it offers to various kinds of passengers.
The senior citizen concession amounts to around 80 per cent of the total discounts given by it.
Earlier, the Railways had tried to encourage people to give up their senior citizen concession, but it was not a success.
Last week, Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, in reply to a question in Parliament, said the cost of granting concessions weighs heavily on the Railways.
"…Hence, extending the scope of concessions to all categories of passengers, including senior citizens, is not desirable," he said.