The railways is fighting a continuing battle against the touts, who are cornering tickets through PRS counters as well as the IRCTC website, says VK Gupta, general manager, Northern Railways. Excerpts from an interview with HT:
What changes are being made to improve the tatkal ticketing system?
Tatkal counters would be opened at reservation counters on a trial basis. Then the opening time of tatkal windows would be changed from 8 am to 10 am and the window would be blocked for authorised agents till noon. We are also looking at opening tatkal booking for each train 24 hours before its departure time.
Why have the railways failed to crack down on touts?
No system is foolproof. It is not that we have failed to act. Forty-four lakh bogus IRCTC user accounts have been deleted. Accredited agents have been barred from booking tickets. Nineteen lakh tickets are booked everyday and 15 per cent of it is done under Tatkal scheme. Our website gets 3.5 crore hits everyday and the system is so huge that it can't be transformed overnight.
What action has been taken against errant railway staff?
Some of our men may have been involved but we are improving vigilance. We have put in place a software through which a reservation clerk cannot book more than 10-12 tatkal tickets in the first 15 minutes. Surveillance cameras are also being installed. These steps will make a difference.
The tatkal window opening timing was changed to 24 hours before the train departs from 48 hours. Authorized agents were also barred for the first two hours. But instead of streamlining the tatkal ticketing system, these changes have further worsened it.
It's an evolving process. We keep on trying new things. No organisation in the world handles so much pressure as we do. Railways have no power to prosecute offenders other than challaning them. Our legal team is working on a penal system which can be brought in to check such problems.