From the running of the superior trains and innovative freight schemes to a grand advertising revenue enhancement plan along with Rail TV and Radio, and also a comprehensive social media tool based feedback system, the Indian Railways is venturing into a huge exercise to bring in perceptible changes in its operations in the short term while being focused on the structural reforms in the long run.
Two years is not a good enough time for transforming Indian Railways, but the latest presentation of the ministry on what it has done in the last two years, in the current NDA regime, and also what it plans to do in the medium and long-term, especially with regard to improving the passenger facilities and generating non-fare revenues, is quite impressive.
Railway minister Suresh Prabhu, who is leading the whole exercise from the front, told The Financial Express that what the ministry is trying to do is to, “work on all fronts at the same time”, to make perceptible changes in the short-term and structural reforms in the long-term.
Besides the acceleration in capital investments, which the presentation shows have grown from an average of Rs 45,979 crore during 2009-14 to Rs 58,718 crore in FY15 and Rs 93,795 crore in FY16, with the projected Rs 1,21,000 crore in FY17 — the plan to push non-fare revenues in a big way seems to be getting a lot of attention and the results of which is expected to start accruing soon.
To double the non-fare revenues from last year to Rs 9,600 crore estimated in the budget this year, there is an impressive line-up of the steps to do it.
It covers, Vinyl wrapping of all trains, branding of trains and integrating all services on board and a comprehensive Railway display network, which will create a new mode of advertising and information dissemination.
To attract serious players for advertising and branding, instead of giving one train or a station to the players for a short stint, the idea now is to give the sole right for all advertising to a single entity for the entire zone.
Rail radio through the passenger address systems in trains and on-board magazines for all reserved passengers besides commercial leasing of land are also part of the plan.
All this will obviously get better support from the launch of the new trains like Humsafar, Gartimaan, Utkrisht Double-decker Air-conditioned Yatri (UDAY) and Tejas, offering superior services to the passengers at a higher price and also the innovative plans in the freight segment.
The presentation also boasts of the utilization of the social media tools – Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and CPGram in getting customer feedbacks that will play a crucial role in creating a comprehensive system in the next six months.
The railways feedback system is currently making 3 lakh calls every day to seek customers’ feedback and 139 customer complaint helpline along with 182 security helpline have already been set up.
But, the most interesting use of the social media is its new ‘one of its kind’ Twitter-based Complaint Redressal mechanism.
On an average 2.3 crore passengers are travelling through the Railways daily and it receives about 6,500 tweets in a day, which are being processed, 24/7 from a centrally managed cell that classifies tweets as critical, non-critical, suggestions and others, and opens a ticket for every actionable tweet.
The critical tweets are communicated via SMS or phone calls and each ticket is monitored at various stages in the system until the issue is resolved.
Thanks to the monitoring from the top, the average response time by the Rail officials is less than 30 minutes to the complaints.
While it is true that it will take some time before all the plans start yielding results on the ground, what looks certain is that the experience of travelling in a train may be completely different going ahead.