A seemingly innocuous comment like, “chhutta paisa nahi hai” is enough to incite a flare-up between a commuter and a ticket-vending staffer at any railway station. Similarly, travellers without authorised tickets often refuse to back down when confronted by a ticket collector (TC). Now, in a rare initiative, railway authorities are attempting to engineer an atmosphere of bonhomie at stations by training employees in customer care and hospitality services.
Central Railway (CR) will soon appoint a consultant to groom its TCs and ticketing staff.
“They would be imparted lessons in customer care and hospitality, so their interactions with commuters are friendlier and complaints are minimised,” said a senior CR official on condition of anonymity.
Squabbles between passengers and ticket-vending staff are often set off by unavailability of requisite change, and representatives taking too long or going on breaks with people waiting in large numbers.
Similarly, arguments ensue inside coaches when TCs catch commuters travelling without tickets. In such a scenario, a TC tends to grab hold of the offender’s arm, which angers the passenger.
“At many stations, there are either too few ticket counters or they are understaffed, while queues are long. On top of this the Automatic Ticket Vending Machines and Coupon Validating Machines are frequently out of order. Unsurprisingly, tiffs between commuters and railway staff are recurrent,” said Madhu Kotian, member of Upnagriya Rail Pravasi Sangh.
Commuter associations say that there is need to have a separate counter at every station for those who travel the minimum distance, as usually these are the travellers who end up having arguments with railway staff.
CR only has 2, 000 ticket-vending staffers and 1,200 TCs in Mumbai.
CR officials claim they try to address complaints, which they receive via SMS, email, and from commuters in person.