Western Railway newly launched pre-paid smart card seems to be a rage with commuters, with sales figures touching one lakh within just 80 days of its launch. Launched on October 11, the smart cards have averaged a sale of 700 per day.
The Indian Railways, for 2007-08, sanctioned 587 Automatic Ticket Vending Machines (ATVM) for Western Railway at Rs 217,718 and 987 machines worth Rs 347,533 for Central Railway.
Smart cards were proposed in the 2007-08 Railway Budget as a convenient alternative to the purchase of tickets at counters. These are pre-paid cards that can be swiped at stations before the start of the journey, making cash transactions unnecessary.
While Western Railway’s (WR) Mumbai division has completed installation of ATVMs, installation on Central Railway (CR) is still held up due to red tape and technical glitches. ATVMs have currently been installed only at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Thane and Kalyan on the CR, but the machines have been installed at all 29 stations between Churchgate and Virar, including Bandra Terminus.
ATVMs are popular for their accessibility — they are developed English, Hindi and Marathi software, and are easy to understand.
“This is an example of how computer connectivity can help at a mass level to cut down queues. Each machine is connected to a computer in the stationmaster’s cabin and a central server — the brain of the network. These computers flash basic parameters like status of paper roll, ribbon data, etc which tell us about the functioning of the machine. This way we can ensure it’s in working order,” Vikram Chopra, general manager (passenger services applications), Centre for Railway Information Systems, who is also the architect of the railways smart card.