NEARLY a quarter of the Automated Ticket Vending Machines (ATVMs) on the suburban railways are currently not functioning, with many out of order for nearly six months. While commuters put up with the inconvenience, the Western Railway and Central Railway have been unable to redress the situation with the railway authorities, the company supplying the vending machines and another firm supplying the paper roll for the tickets locked in a dispute.
The ATVMs were introduced by the railways to help commuters not queue up at ticket booking counters at stations and instead avail tickets with the help of smart cards. According to officials records of the railways, as many as 245 of 1,000 machines have been lying dysfunctional for the past six months.
“The lack of a functioning ATVM is causing a lot of inconvenience to commuters at the Marine Lines station. Much of our time goes into crossing the foot over-bridges to get to a proper ticket booking counter or find a functional ATVM,” said Amit Bhadricha, a commuter.
“A private company is the uniform ATVM vendor for different zones of the railways while the paper is supplied to us by two different firms. A technical error with compatibility of the part of the machine that cuts or prints the paper of ticket roll has left many new machines useless. We have been trying to fix the problem,” said a senior railway official.
Officials claimed while initially the machine supplier refused to repair many newly purchased machines due to their difference over the quality of paper used in tickets, it has now agreed to look at its repairs and also pay penalty for not repairing them on time. “By March-end, many machines would be fixed and fit to be used,” said a senior railway official.
Last year, facilitators — former railway employees — were appointed near single machines at major stations to help those commuters who cannot operate an ATVM to avail a ticket. Gradually, commuters without smart cards also started queuing up near the machines to get tickets.
“At stations like Vadala, CST facilitators occupy the working ATVM and help commuters get tickets. I, being a smart card holder, would then have to hunt for a working ATVM, which is impossible. This then forces me to either queue up at a ticket booking counter or stand in the ATVM line in spite of holding an individual smart card,” said Pavitra Ramaswamy, a commuter.
“During peak hours, it creates a huge problem. Several times, I have stood in the ATVM line operated by facilitators and asked them to book tickets from my smart card. This, however, does not serve the purpose of why I bought one,” another commuter added.
Almost 28 per cent of the total tickets booked in a day on CR are done through ATVMs. The figure for WR is 20 per cent.