Don’t have time to stand in the long serpentine queue at the railway station to buy a ticket? Till now your easiest option was to buy a coupon booklet and get it punched through the coupon vending machines (CVMs). But this may soon come to an end.
The railways have decided to phase out the CVMs to ‘popularise’ the automatic ticket vending machines (ATVMs) to buy tickets and season passes using prepaid smart cards. The deadline that has been set for both the Central Railway (CR) and Western Railway (WR) is March 2013. It was earlier set for this year, but had to be extended.
The CR is the first to decide to phase out the CVMs, though a deadline has not been set. “We have already begun efforts to phase out the CVM, but it is not going to happen immediately. It will take at least a few months,” said Vidydhar Malegaokar, chief public relations officer, CR.
However, Sharat Chandrayan, chief public relations officer, WR, said they would start phasing out the system once the alternate ticketing system was in place.
Currently, there are 350 CVMs and 250 ATVMs on the Central Railway and 230 CVMs and 175 ATVMs on the Western Railway.
The decision has not gone down well with commuters as well as passenger associations. “The reason CVMs are so popular is because they are very passenger-friendly. The ATVM is still very complicated to use,” said Subhash Gupta, president of Pravashi Sangh, Mumbai, adding that the phasing out of coupons will result in longer queues at ticket windows.
Many commuters have also complained about ATVMs becoming non-functional due to software or hardware problems. “CVM coupons are very easy to use. Just get the coupon punched and start your journey. The ATVM is more complex and difficult to understand,” said Kedar Naik, a resident of Kherwadi.
Even the railway ticket booking staff admitted that the ATVM machines don’t work properly as they are not well maintained. “Sometimes the ATVMs stop working within few hours of repairing,” said an official.