18th June, 2009,
Despite the introduction of the Automatic Ticket Vending Machines (ATVM's) all over the city in the October of 2007, the local railway stations along both, the Central as well as the Western Railway lines of the city still bear witness to long queues outside the ticket issuing windows during rush hours.
The idea behind the introduction of the Smart Cards and the ATVM's was to reduce the pressure on the ticket issuing clerks and avoid the fights breaking out as frustrated commuters stood in long lines in the sun. However, the machines can be seen idle most of the time where as there are still long queues outside most major stations.
However, the ticket issuing officers at the desks have another thing to say. "The situation has changed a lot since the cards have been introduced." Says the officer at the window at Andheri station, requesting anonymity. "Earlier, almost everyday there used to be fist fights and brawls in the lines. Even women used to fight. However, a lot of people have opted for the cards and the lines may look long now, but they are not endless like they used to be before" He smiles. On being asked, Prabhu Nair (19) a college student from Ville Parle too showed his Smart Card. "We get railway concession on passes from our college but when you need to travel beyond the limits of the pass, these come handy. We don't need to stand in those lines and wait."
On being asked why no one is seen using the machines, Ticket Collector John D'sa said, "Why would anyone stand idle in front of the thing? It is a fast process and once you get your ticket, you go. If you stop at the station for a while then you'll see a lot of people using the machines."
On a little questioning around, one may also be able to figure out why the touch screen technology fails to attract the people to the facility. A lot of the people who buy the tickets are incapable of spending more than a 10/- on travel at a time. So they cannot spare the required money. Vijay Kamle (47) a resident of Malad and a daily wager at a site at Andheri says, "Ek saath mein itna kharch nahi kar sakte. 5-10 ka ticket le sakte hai par 50 aur 100 nahi bhar sakte." ("We can not afford to spend so much at a time. We can buy a 5 or 10 rupee ticket at a time, but cannot spare a 50 or 100 rupees.)
It looks like the Railways have given the best they can, but it is also a fact that some part of the problem still persists.