For regular users of local train services, there is perhaps nothing more frustrating than to see your train arrive and depart while you helplessly stand in line to purchase your ticket. One of the foremost reasons for this is that several ticket windows at most stations are normally closed or are only open for a limited time.
At many railway stations on the Central Railway (CR), including important ones like Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST), Dadar, Kurla, Thane and Kalyan, not all ticket counters are open simultaneously, causing long queues to build up, even leading up to the foot over bridges outside at times.
Officials concede there’s a problem, but blame it on staff shortage. As per the figures available, on an average only 350 of the 428 ticket windows are open every day on the CST-Kasara/Karjat/Khopoli stretch on the Main line, CST-Panvel on Harbour line and Thane-Vashi on Trans-harbour line.
This gap of 78 windows grows wider at times at stations where a few of these counters are kept open only for limited periods, including peak hours.
In fact, CR officials have already approached the Railway Recruitment Board, responsible for hiring more staff across various departments. “We have built additional ticket windows keeping future demand in mind, but there is a dearth of manpower (to run them),” said V Malegaonkar, chief PRO, Central Railway.
On the other hand, the commuters too have been blamed for continuing to stand in queues instead of using alternatives like the automatic ticket vending machines (ATVMs) and coupon validating machines (CVMs) installed across all stations. “We are trying to introduce technology through the use of ATVMs and CVMs to make matters simpler for commuters, but there hasn’t been much demand in their use,” said another CR official.
Around 250 ATVMs and 300 CVMs have been installed on the CR network. While rail passenger associations agree that the demand for these machines isn’t high, they blame the railways for this. “The railways have unnecessarily built more ticket windows at a time when there is shortage of staff. Moreover, these ATVMs and CVMs have been facing technical faults quite frequently,” said Madhu Kotian, member, Mumbai Rail Pravasi Sangh.
The demand for CVMs has gone down after the railways did away with the option of buying coupons from ticket windows without standing in queue. “There is no point standing in queue and buying a CVM booklet, as at times even the machines aren’t functioning properly,” said Vishwanath Iyer, a resident of Mahim.
Commuters also have the option of buying tickets from Jansadharan Ticket Booking Sevaks (JTBS), under which people can approach any shop or general store that has been authorised by the railways. There are around 100 JTBS outlets in Mumbai, and in a matter of one year the number is likely to go up to 500.
Did you know?
The CR makes approximately 9 lakh ticket sales every day, of which around 6 lakh are sold through ticket counters, 2 lakh through CVMs and 1 lakh through ATVMs and JTBS