The Railways are looking to tap the Android potential to issue train tickets to commuters on the suburban corridor. The authorities, in a recent meeting, looked at the possibility of getting software that would allow commuters to book tickets on their Android cell phones.
While the proposal is sketchy, it would roughly work like this: after a person reaches near a railway station, they type out the code of the destination station. A message would be sent to them, after they have paid through Internet banking using the phone. The Centre for Railway Information System (CRIS) is working on this project.
“This message is most likely something that cannot be copied or forwarded to the next contact. However, we are trying to figure out means to ensure that the phone doesn’t switch hands,” said a Central Railway (CR) official on condition of anonymity. There are several complications.
A rough guess by the railways says around 40 per cent commuters use Android-based cell phones. How would the others avail of the facility? Then there are the matters of coding of railway stations for the software to identify the location of the commuter, detailing modes of payments and transactions with various national and multinational banks, verifying the mobile tickets produced by the commuter.
The railways said that issuing the message is only 10 per cent of the entire mobile ticketing process. The major grind lies in coming up with the support systems for the project. “The software and other IT systems need to be robust, otherwise the system would collapse. The scheme is a workable but needs strong back-up,” said another CR official.
Every day, more than 2 lakh people go online to book tickets on the IRCTC website, while daily ticket sales at the Central Railway’s counters are close to 9 lakh. The authorities fear that if they don’t prepare a sturdy back-up, system failures would render the scheme impracticable. They also need to ensure that competent devices are given to TCs to check mobile tickets and prevent frauds. A separate counter with a reader is being considered to cater to those who don’t have Android phones.
The message would be displayed on this reader after the code is keyed in. A similar system is followed at various movie theatres across Mumbai. “We acknowledge the need for mobile ticketing and the railway’s IT arm of CRIS is already working towards this,” said Atul Rane, chief public relations officer, Central Railway.
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