If you thought ticket queues at railway stations have been unusually long the past few months, you are right.
Data from the Central Railway (CR) has shown a drastic shift of ticket sales from automatic ticket vending machines (ATVMs) to unreserved ticketing system (UTS), or the ticket counters.
The sale of tickets from ATVMs has fallen by 13% from April to November this year, while sales from counters went up by 15% in the same period.
The use of Jansadharan Ticket Booking Sevak (JTBS) service went up by 9% from April to November.
The shift can be attributed to the withdrawal of 500 ATVM facilitators, CR officials said. In the absence of railway officials to help them with ATVMs, many commuters choose to buy tickets from the counters, said officials.
Earlier, both retired and serving railway employees were allowed to sell tickets at ATVMs but in June, the railway board barred serving employees from the job.
“We had requested the railway board to allow our staff to sell tickets at ATVMs, but they rejected it. As result, we now have longer queues at ticketing counters,” said a railway official, requesting anonymity.
At present, only 181 retired railway staffers are working as ATVM facilitators, which is not sufficient to cater to the large number of passengers. For availing the JTBS service, commuters have to shell out Re1 extra.
Commuter activists blamed the long queues on the failure of the railways to popularise smart cards and on the insufficient number of ATVMs.
“Many commuters are unaware of smart cards. Also, while ATVMs are too few, they are often non-functional,” said Lata Argade, commuter activist.