Apart from buying railway tickets over the counter and cancelling them to claim a refund, people have also used smart cards for automatic ticket vending machines (ATVM) to exchange their old banknotes for new ones.
Since the demonetisation of Rs500 and Rs1,000 currency notes on November 9 the Western Railway (WR) has witnessed a 48% increase in the sale of ATVM smart cards compared to the corresponding period — from November 9 to November 18 — last year.
Moreover, it had touched the highest – 1,867 smart cards sold - on November 11, just two days after the demonetisation.
Similarly, the amount recharged in the ATVM smart card has also increased by 180% and over 200% immediately on November 9 and 10. On an average, commuters recharge Rs1,000 in smart cards, but after demonetisation, the average recharge value increased to Rs2,500.
“In some of the cards, we witnessed multiple recharges of Rs10, 000 also,” said an official, requesting anonymity.
This was followed by the increase in refund amount, which was as high as Rs1.92lakh on November 12. The commuters can surrender the ATVM card and claim the unused amount in their card in refund.
Considering this unprecedented hike in the recharge amounts and refunds, the railways enforced a cap of Rs2,000 balance in the smart card. Similarly, the refund value was also limited to Rs2,000 in cash. The higher refund amounts would be given in cheques.
“Looking at this spurt in smart card recharge and refunds, we enforced the cap and immediately after that, noticed a reduction in refund. Nonetheless, we hope the demonetisation will help us shift passengers from ticketing counter to using smart cards,” said Mukul Jain, divisional railway manager (DRM), Mumbai Central Western Railway.
To promote smart card usage, WR have also increased facilitators from 60 to 101 in October. “Currently our smart card share in suburban ticketing is 18% we are hoping to increase it to 23% by this financial year end,” added Jain.