Commuters may have to pay Re 1 for the much-awaited mobile ticketing facility, which the ministry of railway plans to inaugurate on Saturday.
The railway administration is considering charging the amount for what they said is a value-added service. “Commuters are paying Re1 for the Jan Sadharan Ticket Booking Seva (JTBS) — the ticketing outlets set up outside railway stations. So what is the harm in paying for a service that will be available on their mobile phone,” said a senior railway official, requesting anonymity.
The mobile ticketing for suburban trains was first announced in the 2014-15 interim budget presented in February 2014. However, the project didn’t take off until July — its original deadline.
With this service, commuters will be able to book tickets and renew seasonal passes on their mobile. Each commuter will receive a code via SMS after booking the ticket and the money will be deducted from their mobile wallet, which they have to create with the railways.
Railway officials are also in the process of creating an interface with banks where the ticket amount can be also deducted through internet banking.
The commuter has to insert this SMS code into an Automatic Ticket Vending Machine (ATVM) and procure the printed ticket. The service will initially be available at five stations on the Western Railway (WR) and Central Railway (CR), respectively.
On CR, the service will be available at Kalyan, Kurla, Dadar, CST and Thane stations, while Churchgate, Bandra, Dadar, Andheri and Borivli on the WR will have the service.
Gradually, these ATVMs will be installed at all stations, said the railway official.
Commuter activists, however, claimed the additional charges are not justified.
“Railways are not incurring much cost to provide the service. Rather, they should consistently increase the fare and invest in better rail infrastructure and new projects,” said Ashok Datar, transport expert.