‘Avoid long queues at ticket booking counters. Instead, use Automatic Ticket Vending Machines (ATVMs).’ For long, this has been the Central Railway’s (CR) promotional message for ATVM cards. But the much-hyped alternative for tickets issued at railway counters across stations in the city has reportedly turned into a liability. Following a slew of complaints from commuters about frequent malfunctions in the machines, CR has finally decided to replace the old stock of 175 ATVMs gradually.
Officials claim machine parts keep giving way and need to be replaced. “There are several technical issues with the old ATVMs that have been installed at major railway stations. We have been extending their life by carrying out extensive maintenance work. But replacement is necessary now,” said a senior CR official on condition of anonymity.
There are around 250 ATVMs on the CR suburban network — both on the Main line (CST-Karjat/Kasara) and the Harbour line (CST-Panvel). Of these, nearly 175 are over 3-4 years old and are past their codal life. They were bought at a cost of Rs 1.50 lakh each. The remaining 75 have been newly tendered and each costs Rs 25,000 more than those in the old lot. Most glitches are reported from the machines installed at Bhandup, Thane, Kalyan, Ghatkopar, and Dadar stations. CR authorities will soon be writing to the Railway Board in Delhi to replace the entire lot as it is affecting day-to-day operations.
Officials agree that the glitches are costing more than the machines, and private contractors in charge of maintenance have been crying foul over the constant breakdowns. “There have been cases where each machine faces some technical issue or the other at least four times a day,” said a CR official. In fact, CR wanted to eliminate the popular Coupon Validating Machines (CVMs) from the network by March 2013, citing that they are more susceptible to fraud.
But looking at the state of ATVMs, authorities are now contemplating eliminating CVMs in a phased manner by March 2015. “There are a lot of problems in the working of ATVMs. We will be conducting a signature campaign in the coming week in support of CVMs and submitting it to the Railway Board, asking them to refrain from removing them,” said Madhu Kotian, president, Mumbai Pravasi Sanghatana. Incidentally, since May 11, began displaying pictorial messages on ATVMs about how to use them. The initiative came after long-standing complaints from commuters. The design includes five different infographics to guide users through the steps to procure a ticket, right from placing the card on the machine till getting the ticket.