Lalu wants to cut long queues with jazzy ways to book tickets

Written by fe Bureau | New Delhi, Feb 26 | Updated: Feb 27 2008, 04:35am hrs
Atithi devo bhava seemed to be the Lalu Prasads mantra as he lined up a string of amenities for passengers while presenting the Railway Budget.

While a beginning has been made in the direction in the preceding budget, Prasad has sought to take them forward this year. Termination of long queues for purchasing tickets on mobile phones within two years, Internet and ticket vending machines, updating the railway enquiry call center, on-line coach indication board and on-line train arrival departure board are some of the measures stressed by the railway minister to make travelling and travel-related experience more comfortable for the passengers.

The railway minister also announced the introduction of the Go Mumbai Card to avoid the long queues in local train stations.

Listing the various changes his previous budgets had made in the last four years, Prasad said this years budget too was dedicated to improving the travelling experience. He announced that in order to end long queues on the ticket counters, within two years, bookings would be made available on the Internet, through mobile phones and even in neighbourhood counters and automatic vending machines which would be increased to 6,000 from the present 350.

The unreserved ticketing system (UTS) counters would be increased to 15,000 from the present number of 3,000. E-tickets are currently issued against confirmed reservation only. However, over time it would be issued to waitlisted passengers as well.

The railway minister also announced the launch of a multi-purpose card Go Mumbai Card. The card would be sold at local stations, bus depots of BEST and other local locations in the city. The card would enable a traveller to conveniently travel without having to buy tickets each time. The railways ministry will not commit any capital towards the scheme and only a marginal fee would be payable upon buying and recharging a card.

Announcing that the setting up of a fully computerised railway enquiry has been a huge success, Lalu said, At present, the service is being used by 2 lakh people daily and is expected to touch 5 lakh in a years time. The enquiry service is now available in the entire country by dialling 139 from all mobile and fixed line telephones.

Taking the technology upgrade drive in the railways one level up to match the international standards of airlines, the minister declared that more and more information would be made available to passengers on board. On-line coach indication boards will be installed on the overnight and express trains. These boards will continuously display the remaining distance and the likely time of arrival of the next approaching station.

Information boards displaying on-line information about train arrival-departure and platform berthing will be installed at railway stations, parking lots. While 100 LED display boards will be installed at 100 A and B category stations by March 2009.