Suburban commuters complained of long ticketing queues at Central Railway (CR) and Western Railway (WR) stations. Even though both the CR and WR were accepting notes of Rs500 and Rs1,000 denomination on Wednesday for bigger transactions like purchase of long-distance tickets or monthly and quarterly passes, they discouraged it for single or return journey.
Gaurang Damani, divisional railway user’s consultative committee member, said, “Unavailability of sufficient change led to arguments at ticket counters.”
Some commuter associations said that if this inconvenience continues, they will have to launch agitation at major stations. Aniket Ghamandi, member of Mumbai suburban passenger’s federation, said, “If this continues, we will be forced to agitate.”
However, the railways complained that some of commuters bought tickets only to take change. “A commuter bought a ticket worth Rs80 and tore it after taking the change of Rs1,000. Similarly, many passengers are taking platform tickets for change. We don’t have exact change to tender and so, we have started issuing receipts,” senior a CR official.
Mukul Jain, divisional railway manager, WR (Mumbai division), said, “We have been trying to ensure that passengers are not inconvenienced. The railways will accept the notes of Rs500 and Rs1,000 denomination until November 11. We will issue receipts to commuters in case we are unable to hand them the change. Commuters can collect it from the counter after three days.”
Commuter-friendly ticketing options
According to Damani, “The railways should use this opportunity to promote their tech-friendly ticket purchasing options like using smart cards or mobile ticketing.”
Ghamandi suggested that “the railways should provide debit or credit card option at major stations” so that suburban commuters are not inconvenienced.
Meanwhile, the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation and Centre for Railway Information Systems (CRIS) are hoping that the cash-crunch will help them promote the mobile and online suburban ticketing options.
Arvind Malkhede, group general manager, IRCTC, Mumbai zone, said, “We are anticipating more sales for online monthly passes, which are available on the IRCTC website. If it picks up, we will reduce the delivery time from four to two days.”
Banks to give ₹1crore change to railways
The Reserve Bank of India and other nationalized banks have agreed to give change for Rs1 crore to the central and western railways. According to railway officials, that to may not be sufficient.
“The daily requirement of Mumbai division cash flow is Rs14crore-16crore. The amount for four days comes to Rs60crore. No government organization is ready to provide this amount,” said the official.
However, one nationalized bank gave Rs1crore cash to the railways on Wednesday. “The RBI has assured us more change over the next two days. We are also issuing cash receipts to long-distance passengers, so they can collect money after three days,” said another senior railway official.
Currency notes of Rs500 and Rs1,000 will be accepted at railway ticket booking windows, petrol pumps, hospitals and other locations till November 11.
Railways monitor higher class ticket booking
Following the surge in long distance ticket bookings on Wednesday, the Western and Central Railway are closely monitoring outstation air-conditioned coaches and group ticket bookings.
The sudden increase in the sales of long distance tickets on Wednesday came as a result of the government scrapping Rs500 and Rs100 currency notes.
Western railway’s average ticketing sales in the off- season is between Rs 85 lakh and Rs90 lakh, which touched Rs1.79 crore on Wednesday. Central Railway’s sale increased to Rs1.72crore from Rs1.2crore. The sudden increase has alarmed railway officers who suspect that people are buying the tickets but will cancel them later to get back legal currency notes, after the deduction of a nominal fee. “We are closely monitoring ticket sales. We are maintaining records of the higher class ticket buyers,” said Mukul Jain, divisional railway manager, Western Railway-Mumbai.