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ISSUE OF MARCH 2006 
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Where There's A Rail There’s A Way

Rationalising travel costs rather than cutting them is what Indian corporates are opting for today and the reduction in fringe benefit tax from 20 per cent to 5 per cent in this year's financial budget has brought some cheer to India Inc. However, the introduction of 12 per cent service tax on international air travel by business and first class seems to have cancelled out some of the cheer.

Travel, especially business travel, has been on the upswing for the past few years and this trend looks like it’s here to stay. While this issue's Spotlight analysis the new budget and its implications on business travel, the cover story puts another interesting aspect of business travel under the scanner — inter-city travel and short and long haul journeys. These have been the mainstay of business travel in India; one which has been revolutionised by the advent of low-cost carriers (LCCs) and no-frills airlines.

This plethora of cost-effective choices of air travel raises the question whether the Indian Railways run the risk of being sidelined, especially with regards to business travel. While the time factor rules out any comparisons between rail and air for long haul destinations, this issue's cover story attempts to gauge the changing trends in travel preference when it comes to short distance/inter-city travel. The Indian Railways, with a vast network across the country that even LCCs can't match sometimes, has woken up to competition, a sentiment echoed in this year’s rail budget. It has introduced a slew of measures and facilities like e-ticketing, cyber cafes and ATMs at stations, new superfast trains, free class upgrades, and reduction in fares for air-conditioned coaches. All these reflect the sentiment of the Indian Railways to revamp their act and offer a more attractive proposition for business travellers.

Personally, being an avid traveller who wants to take in the sights, sounds and culture while travelling, whether on business or leisure, I would certainly vote for a train journey - but one which is comfortable, convenient and cost effective.

Achal Dhruva
Assistant News Editor, feBusiness Traveller

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