Saturday, June 21, 2008

Trains cheaper than planes!

AJ, a middleclass 28-year old man grew up in the post-1993 liberalised era. When he landed his first job, India had already entered the era of low-cost airplanes. AJ -- who is earning a sum, his parents couldn't dream of when they were his age -- would fly rather than take a train; most of it company- sponsored. Not without valid reason, since time was, and is, at a premium for him.

Now his company is urging employees to use other modes of transport, like train, bus or car. AJ last week travelled by train after a gap for six years, from Chennai to Bangalore. Yesterday he broke the big news: "Pradeep, train is so cheap...!" He was talking of Shatabdi Express. I don't know if he is aware what the cost of sleeper class ticket is.

What struck me was AJ's amazement. For many like AJ, trains never existed, because on the fast lane of tech-driven life there were only the airplanes.

There was a time when middleclass people only saw planes up in the sky, forget travelling in them. Even for uppermiddle class, a flight was a once-in- a while phenomenon undertaken in times of emergency. During the last decade, it has been a revolutionary change. Even for the middleclass, flights were becoming a norm rather than an exception.

As they say, changes are always cyclic. Only few would have expected the change to happen this fast. Today youngsters are being taught what their parents and grandparents were very good at -- saving and thoughtful spending. The days of reckless, mindless spending are over. At least for now.

Many like AJ are also in the process discovering a whole new world.

Read also: How rich/poor are we?


  1. Pradeep:
    [couldn't help noticing a Google ad right below that post - 'Book flight tickets for Rs 99' :) ]
    Is it time to say that the Air (travel) bubble has burst?
    I hope Lalloo welcomes such 'converts' as AJ with better civic facilities on board...

  2. Amazing....I never thought about things like these. I agree things are changing. for one thing, more people prefer to go to tamil nadu by train rather than going to far off devanahalli to baord a flight. Enlightening writeup.

  3. Two sides to everything :-)
    Here I am middle class and middle aged discovering air travel and there is AJ young and biz class discovering trains! Both have been around but we need pushing to knock at new frontiers of thinking

  4. It is only when there is no other mode of transport (viz. travelling abroad) that we take planes. To me flying costs still seem prohibitive,(and they are to become more and more so, I gather) and as you say, is to be indulged in only in an emergency.
    Kallu, even after crossing middle age trains are still my mode of transport within the country.

  5. I've been a rail addict for ages, be it in Switzerland or in India. I'm glad others are seeing the benefit too.

    Growing up in a familly of travellers and road trippers I knew from a very early age that traveling around the globe doesn't mean breaking the bank if you are willing to sacrifice a little bit of confort LOL

    In Switzerland petrol has become so costly that it cost about 6 times more to drive somwhere versus taking the train, makes most people like my mom think twice before going behind the wheel, and the railway minister seriously thinking of increasing rail traffic in the coming years.

  6. nd we Gulf Wallas board the plane only because we can neither take a car nor a rail to see our loved ones!nd they did promised us a ship but our hopes were all dashed!

    But train journeys are one of a kind. If in Kerala, one can close one's eyes and tell which station that you have reached by the change in dialect! Even in Kuwait, when I hear a different dialect being spoken, for a second I go chug chug with the train!

  7. Dear Time and Tide
    Thankyou so much for commenting on my new Blog. I have a penfriends in Finland, Germany and China but you are my first link with India. I am intrigued that all the comments I've seen are in English! I suppose the bad old Colonial days still hang around a bit. One thing that is universal at the moment is the oil crisis. My husband and I have travelled by bus for years (though we have a car) but our son, who has a big gas guzzler, thinks us rather quaint!
    Brenda Bryant

  8. I always enjoyed the train journeys. Moreover travelling to Chennai is best in the overnight 2nd class sleeper... no beating that! The worst sufferer with the hike in airfares is my globe-trotter brother, who cringes every time he needs to fly.

  9. nothing to beat a train ride. plane travel has become so boring and nerve racking at the same time. there is always somebody in the plane zooming in on you and wondering if you are a terrorist...especially if you have brown skin...wonder how you can desensitize these chaps..