Indian Railways simmer with summer travel surge; travel demand up by 20% y-o-y

With temperatures soaring across India, train travel is experiencing a boom this summer. A scorching 20 per cent surge in searches for train tickets in May and June compared to last year has Indian Railways running hot, according to travel booking platform ixigo. This surge is fueled by a confluence of factors, with travellers seeking not only escape from the heat but also convenient options for weekend getaways, election travel and summer vacations, explained players. The summer rush has resulted in high waitlists for trains to major cities like Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru.

Data from Confirm TKT reveals wait times for sleeper classes exceeding 70-100 passengers for travel in the last two weeks of May on routes like New Delhi-Mumbai (waitlist exceeding 50 passengers) and New Delhi-Bengaluru (waitlist ranging between 70-100 passengers).

Ixigo also highlighted an interesting trend related to election travel. “One of the striking observations was the significant movement of voters across State borders to cast their ballots. Voters travelled from one State to another during the election period. For instance, a noteworthy 21 per cent increase in bus travel from Karnataka to Tamil Nadu was recorded, indicating a cross-border mobilisation of voters,” the spokesperson said.

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Popular routes

Ixigo reports that the most booked train route in India for May 2024 is between Mumbai and Pune, a popular choice for weekend getaways seeking an escape from the bustling city to the scenic hill station. Other popular routes include Chennai to Bengaluru, Mumbai to Surat (a mix of business and leisure travel due to Surat’s status as a diamond trading centre), Ahmedabad to Mumbai (primarily business travel connecting the commercial centres), and Kanpur to New Delhi.

Commenting on the travel demand, Rajesh Magow, Co-founder and Group CEO, MakeMyTrip, said, “Summer is always one of the biggest quarters of the year in terms of travel intent and this year too, the buoyancy in the sector continues. We are observing a healthy growth in searches over those recorded last year at this time. India is a large country and summer leisure travel begins with the Southern region where the holiday season arrives early, followed by the West and then finally the North. We haven’t observed any change in trend this year as well.”

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“The same trend continues for railway reservations. To beat the summer rush, travellers are opting for products like ‘trip guarantee’ which have also witnessed an uptick in usage this summer,” MakeMyTrip added. Their trip guarantee product allows customers to pay a premium to secure a confirmed ticket.

Demand for AC trains

This rise in demand is attributed to a confluence of factors, as explained by an Ixigo spokesperson: “We have seen a significant jump in demand for AC trains this summer due to the heatwave. AC train searches have increased by 10 per cent as compared to the same time last year.”

The scorching heatwave is a major driver behind the surge in train travel. Travellers are seeking refuge in air-conditioned comfort, reflected in a 10 per cent y-o-y increase in AC train searches. This trend is corroborated by data from IRCTC, which witnessed a significant shift towards AC bookings in Q3FY24. AC class bookings reached 550 lakhs, compared to 456 lakhs for non-AC and 140 lakhs for second sitting, clearly indicating a preference for AC travel.

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