No takers for Railway schemes to reduce queues at stations
The Railways’ myriad solutions to reduce queues at railway stations’ ticket counters seem to have found little success on the ground. For instance, the Central Railway (CR) recently recalled tenders for Jansadharan Ticket Booking Sevaks (JTBS) scheme, which allowed a regular shop or outlet to sell local train tickets. As of now, the city has around 220 JTBS outlets.
While tenders are a routine affair for the railways, what makes this case special is that the CR authorities have been struggling to promote this scheme since September 2013. Back then, they announced the launch of 500 JTBS outlets across Mumbai and its metropolitan region that encompasses 76 stations, which fall under the suburban section.
Now, one-and-half years later, the authorities are still scouting for people for the scheme. “464 JTBS outlets are vacant across the Mumbai suburban section,” said a CR official on condition of anonymity. These are on both the Main line till Karjat/Kasara and Harbour line, till Panvel. Under this scheme, people can buy tickets from any local shop, medical store, or commercial centre, which has sufficient space for the required paraphernalia such as computers and printers.
In addition to the existing ticket fare, they could charge an additional fee of Rs 1 and their computers and other systems will be aligned with that of the nearest railway station. Another recent proposal to allow people purchase local train tickets through mobile phones hasn’t matured either. Senior Western Railway (WR) officials claimed that the main problem is the 12.36 per cent service tax that is levied over and above the ticket price.
“As we offer an extra five per cent on ATVM smart cards when recharged as an incentive, it would be wrong to levy service tax on mobile ticketing. It would be difficult to popularise it,” said a senior CR official, on condition of anonymity. Until mid-March, the WR has sold around 2,500 tickets while the CR has sold 2,700 tickets through mobile ticketing. All ATVM machines on the suburban section of both railways offer mobile ticketing.