It seems Western Railway (WR) commuters prefer standing in queues to purchase tickets rather than use the Automatic Ticket Vending Machines (ATVMs) installed at railway stations. Statistics reveal that only 70,000 WR passengers avail of the facility in comparison to the 2.5-lakh Central Railway (CR) commuters who use ATVMs during their daily commute.
Only 8 per cent WR passengers use ATVM, CVM and JTBS compared to 14 per cent on the Central line. A K Singh, PRO, CR, said, “Passengers are becoming smart and using the smarter way of ticketing instead standing in queues for hours. They don’t take much time while buying tickets via an ATVM. It’s the latest technology and we are happy that our passengers are using it.”
But, according to CR officials, the surge in passengers using ATVMs is not necessarily due to commuters not prepared to stand in long queues, but it is due to shortage of ticketing staff that compels them to make use of ATVMs. “We don’t have enough booking clerks and there are vacancies to be filled. With not enough staff to man booking counters, commuters are forced to use ATVMs. The numbers would have been higher had the ATVMs been well maintained and in proper working condition,” said a top CR official, on condition of anonymity.
According to a survey conducted, around 70 per cent of machines installed on CR railway stations have passed their five-year codal life, while 60 per cent WR ATVMs have completed five years. On an average, at least 30 to 40 ATVMs undergo repairs everyday.
Out of the 250 machines installed on CR, 175 machines will be ending its codal life soon and out of 175 installed on WR, 115 will be ending its normal working life under the asset depreciation rules. CR officials confess that they are facing such problems for years and even after regular follow up, authorities are unable to cope with this issue. Monitors of ATVMs go blank, printers malfunction, touch screens are non-responsive and the cutters that shear off ticket stubs are blunt.
Interestingly, WR has been experimenting with newer versions of ATVMs lately. The WR administration had introduced ATVMs that accept coins at selected stations, but this move failed to garner interest from the public, apart from the machines encountering technical issues. The authorities are not able to divert the passengers to their latest technological machines apart from the UTS system where passengers have to queue up for hours to buy ticket for a single destination.
“It’s distressing that despite introducing several options for passengers, they are not ready to accept any of our systems. We want to reduce queues, but passengers prefer to wait in line and buy tickets from ticket booking counters,” said a WR official, on condition of anonymity. CR trains ferry 38 lakh passengers while WR carries 34 lakh commuters daily.