Technology the Western Railway (WR) cast off last year owing to operational hiccups is likely to return so Mumbaikars may retrieve railway tickets for coins from a machine. Last year, the WR introduced a smart train ticket vending machine that accepted change and currency notes. But frequent malfunctions arrested its operations, and it was reduced to being little more than furniture at the railway station. The pilot had failed.
Yesterday, however, union railway minister Pawan Kumar Bansal declared in his budget speech that coin-operated ticket vending machines (COTVMs) would be set up at various railway stations. “We will be extending the COTVMs and a scheme of Jansadharan Ticket Booking Sevaks (JTBSs) during this year,” said Bansal.
In 2012, the WR had placed a COTVM at Churchgate station along with an operator to help commuters use it. But the rail authorities received a slew of complaints that the machines were prone to hanging after coins were inserted, leaving commuters short of a penny and without a ticket. The whimsies of the gear rendered it good only for renewing smart cards used by suburban train travellers.
Another major stumbling block was the integration of the machines with the Central Railway stations. Commuters encountered hardships while trying to obtain tickets for stations on CR’s main and harbour lines. When the machines did issue tickets, the transactions seldom showed up on the ticketing system, which made it difficult for officials to keep a tab on ticket sales.
The malfunctions led the authorities to hold its rollout to other stations like Borivli and Andheri and halt its operation at the stations equipped with it. But with the announcement, WR has gone back to getting private contractors who can provide better machines. Even the CR has decided to install them at its suburban stations.
“The necessary operational requirements and passenger amenities have been taken care of in this budget,” said Mahesh Kumar, general manager, Western Railway. Sources said the technical issues would be sorted soon and senior officials would inspect the machines.