Chennai, Feb 27 (IANS) The Indian Railways should look at the option of taking out a master personal accident insurance policy for its passengers, those with confirmed/reserved tickets, according to industry officials.
The railways cannot absolve itself of the liability to passengers even if it offers a facility to buy travel insurance at the time of ticket-booking, said insurance industry officials.
Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu while presenting the railway budget for 2016-17 said railways is working with insurance companies to provide optional travel insurance for rail journeys at the time of booking.
Talking to IANS, industry officials expressed surprise at Prabhu’s statement.
“The railways used to have a public liability policy issued by United India Insurance Company Ltd. till mid-2000s. The policy would compensate the railways for compensation paid against liability claims,” a senior official of United India Insurance, requesting anonymity, told IANS.
However, industry officials welcomed Prabhu’s statement.
“We welcome the move. It will increase the spread of insurance. A master personal accident insurance policy seems to be a good idea,” R. Chandrasekaran, secretary general, General Insurance Council of India, told IANS.
While the move may get some non-traffic revenue for the railways, how far people would opt for a travel insurance policy is a million dollar question.
The industry officials cite the personal accident policy sales to domestic airline passengers as an example.
On the other hand, if the railways opt for a master personal accident insurance policy covering passengers with reserved tickets, it can, in a way, cut down its outgo to accident victims.
For the insurers, the risk exposure towards a passenger is only limited to the actual duration of the journey.
The insurers can issue a policy to various railway regions — southern railway, central railway and others — so that premium could be charged based on the accident experience.
“While the premium may be low in providing death, total and permanent partial disability covers, the policyholder base would log a quantum jump. Insurance is nothing but a business of large numbers,” an industry official told IANS.
As per official data, India has the fourth largest railroad network in the world with some 64,460 route km, after the US (224,792), Russia (128,000) and China (112,00).
Nearly 21,000 trains ply daily to ferry 23 million passengers.
The network spans 29 states and three union territories via some 8,500 stations. It criss-crosses Baramulla in Jammu and Kashmir in the north to Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu in the south and Ledo in Assam in the east to Naliya in Gujarat in the west.