The number of Automatic Ticket Vending Machines (ATVM) has more than doubled in the past four years on the Central Railway (CR), but there is a problem. The tickets issued through these machines have not increased proportionately.
The statistics procured from CR indicate that more than 60% (around six lakh) daily suburban commuters still buy tickets at the counter. Around 2.35 lakh daily commuters opt for ATVMs, while 1.80 lakh prefer Jan Sadharan Ticket Booking Sewak (JTBS) and 500-600 passengers choose mobile ticketing.
The ATVMs were introduced by the Railways with much fanfare to replace cheaper coupon vending machines (CVMs) that were popular with the commuters. But it seems they have failed to pick up. For suburban commuters, this means long ticketing queues still persist because ATVMs are not user-friendly. The breakup of ticket sales, according to CR data, showed the average daily ticket sales through ATVMs had increased to 2.74 lakh in April 2014-15, when the number of ATVMs was 382. However, it dropped to 1.46 lakh in July last year.
Railway authorities attributed this reduction to the sudden withdrawal of facilitators, following the railway board order. “The ATVMs are very confusing because of the 7-8 steps involved. Therefore, we had proposed hot-key ATVMs to the railway board and Centre for Railway Information System (CRIS), which will involve only three steps. But so far we have not received any response,” said a senior CR official.
Each ATVM is worth Rs1.25lakh. This means more than Rs 8.27crore of the taxpayers’ money is spent to procure 662 ATVMs, but they have failed to serve the purpose. Whereas, the proposed ATVMs by CR will cost only Rs 75,000, the prototype of which is also ready.
The number of ATVMs available on the suburban section is 662, of which 280 were installed in the past four months. Still, the number of daily average tickets sold is 2.35 lakh. Uday Bobhate, general manager, Centre for Railway Information System, said, “The demand to develop any new IT module has to come from the railway board. We have not received any such demand from the board.”