In a surprise swoop, the railways cracked down on four travel agencies in the Capital that sold confirmed tickets booked on fictitious names to needy passengers at a hefty premium.
The agencies, in Karol Bagh, Paharganj, Seelampur and Kapashera near the Gurgaon border, were part of a common racket with identical modus operandi.
Signages to their offices claimed they were “approved by the railways”.
All four travel agencies had “field agents” spread around railway stations to catch passengers.
During the raids, 46 reserved and four cancelled tickets besides other reservation-related documents were recovered from the agencies.
The owners of the agencies, along with seized items, were handed over to Railway Protection Force for prosecution under the railway act.
Along with this, the anti-fraud team of Northern Railway also nabbed 17 touts at stations in Delhi, Ghaziabad and Meerut. Officials said a demand and supply mismatch was reason why this menace keeps coming back to haunt the railways.
“Unauthorised travel agencies and touts try to cash in on this because obviously the number of people the railways can carry at a time is limited, so the supply cannot always match the demand. We have been carrying out these raids regularly,” said Manish Tewari, Northern Railway spokesman.
While the railways have been conducting such raids periodically, there has not been any long-term solution to this menace. These agencies and their touts book confirmed tickets on popular trains in bulk and sell them in black.
The growth in the demand for more berths has outpaced the growth in the carrying capacity of the railways. Officials blame that as the main cause.
“As of now, the tracks are choc-a-block with both goods and passenger trains. There is no way we can increase the number of train drastically,” said a senior railways official.
A major scope for increasing the passenger carrying capacity will arise once the proposed Dedicated Freight Corridor becomes operational, taking away all the goods trains, leaving the existing tracks free just for passenger trains.