RAILWAY OFFICIALS are planning to rope in private companies to install about 5,000 automatic ticket vending machines at stations free of cost. In return, they will be granted lucrative advertising rights for these machines to cover up their costs and make profits additionally.
The move is yet another example of how the Railways are employing shrewd business strategies to optimise profits, while increasing passenger facilities.
The vending machines will be set up at stations across the country, beginning with Mumbai and Bangalore, for dispensing platform tickets and unreserved journey tickets. The step is aimed at clearing the rush of daily commuters and avoiding overcrowding at counters.
Passengers can get tickets from the machines by using currency notes as well as smart cards. The firms will also be responsible for operating and maintaining the machines. Talks are currently on with some companies to finalise the proposal.
Over 200 vending machines will be installed at different stations in Mumbai. One machine is already functional at Bangalore station. About 50 more machines will be installed there, according to Kumar. Delhi and other metros and the smaller cities will follow suit soon.
However, as it would cost Rs 2.5 to 3 lakh to install each machine, ministry officials came up with the idea of persuading the manufacturers to set up the machines free of cost. In return, they were offered the advertising rights.
In the process, both parties are happy. The Railways will make a saving of over Rs 100 crore and the firms will cash in on the lucrative rights. Railway Minister Lalu Prasad's Officer on Special Duty (OSD) Sudhir Kumar said it's a "win-win situation for everyone".