The serpentine queue in front of railway ticket counters may be a thing of the past if a plan by the Indian Railways to set up 6,344 automatic ticket vending machines (ATVM) at stations across the country materialises.
The vending machines will be for sale of unreserved journey tickets which constitute 90 percent of the total tickets sold in a day. Passengers can get tickets from the machines by using currency notes as well as smart cards.
"There is always a great rush at ticket counters. Whether local or long distance trains, the queue is maximum for unreserved tickets. So, the move is aimed at reducing the rush at ticket counters," said a senior railway official.
"The ATVM will be equipped with a touch-screen system where a passenger has to feed information like destination, number of tickets to be purchased, adult or children etc. Besides using the smart card, the passenger will have the option to use currency notes. After deducting the exact fare, the vending machine will return the balance," the official added.
"While about one crore passengers travel in trains including mail, express and local trains every day, only 7.5 lakh tickets are sold as reserved tickets," said the official adding the unreserved category is a huge chunk in railways.
The ATVMs are operational in many countries in Europe and the US and Singapore. It costs about Rs 1.5 lakh to install one ATVM.
The ATVMs are to be procured based on public-private partnership (PPP) model, the official said. Adding "the modalities are being worked out and Expression of Interest will be issued next month calling on private parties to submit their proposals.
"We are installing 300 ATVMs in 21 stations in Mumbai region in the first phase. Later, the scheme would be extended to other parts of the country. Our target is to complete the installation in two years time," he said.
Beside installing ATVMs, railways are also increasing the number of unreserved coaches in trains, the official said.
"Till now, there are only two reserved coaches in a train which are going to be increased to six soon," he added.