Finally, PNB ATM on Delhi-Agra Shatabdi

Written by Prachi Karnik Pradhan | Mumbai, Dec 28 | Updated: Dec 30 2007, 05:17am hrs
There is a new year gift from the Indian Railways to its commuters. After months of will-it-wont-it speculations, the department has now decided to go ahead with the proposal for automated teller machine (ATM) facility on moving trains. As a beginning, the state-run Punjab National Bank (PNB) will install an ATM on the Delhi-Agra Shatabdi Express, which is likely to be operational by February 15.

According to a senior PNB official, the railways have already identified the bogie on the Shatabdi Express where the ATM will be installed. A trial run has also been conducted by the bank to ensure connectivity and communication network on the fast-moving train, said a senior bank official. The official added the PNB was awaiting final approval and communication from the railways after which the work of installation of the ATM would begin. He said once all the approvals from the Railway Board and RBI Bank came in, the ATM should be installed and become operational by mid-February. After the projects success, the railways plan to extend similar facility on other routes too.

Earlier, FE had reported that a State Bank of India (SBI) study had not found the proposal for ATMs on moving trains feasible due to lack of connectivity on running trains. There were instances when the satellite link is broken. In such cases, it would be difficult for passengers to withdraw money or cards could get stuck in the machines, a railway official said. There had been security concerns over the proposal too. Many officials within the ministry were of the view that ATMs on running trains might endanger passenger lives and invite robberies, especially in trains plying on the naxalism-affected areas. However, minister of state for railways R Velu had assured recently that the facility would surely be introduced, but only after issues relating to security were sorted out. The proposal is certainly on and would come into effect after issues such as security for the machine and the GPS (for connectivity purposes) are sorted out, he had said in Chennai.

Meanwhile, the railways propose to rope in six nationalised banks, including Canara Bank, Punjab National Bank, Indian Bank, Dena Bank, Union Bank of India and Bank of Baroda, for setting up ATMs at various railway stations. Last year, the ministry of railways had initiated a pilot project with the State Bank of India for the installation of ATMs at 682 railway stations across the country. Similarly, Axis Bank has been roped in to set up ATMs at suburban local railway stations.

The railways plan to install ATMs at 711 locations. A senior railway official told FE the ministry had asked all these banks to complete the installation of all the ATMs by March 31.