As passengers grapple with the problems, officials look the other way

The Southern Railway, a couple of years ago, introduced the novel facility of “Electronic Fare Repeater Display System” at the reserved and unreserved ticket booking counters in Tiruchi Railway Junction.

Under this system, the people can see for themselves the entries being made by the ticketing clerks such as train number, date of journey, boarding, and alighting stations, current status of the ticket and fare on the display board. If any mistake had crept in while the booking staff made the entry, the buyer could alert the official before the ticket was printed. They could keep the fare ready without enquiring for the same with the booking staff.

This facility enabled the people verify the ticket details even while it was being processed.

Earlier, people noticed mistakes only after the ticket was issued across the counter. The ticket had to be re-processed for correcting any mistake that had taken place. The facility was introduced in five computerised passenger reservation system counters and an equal number of unreserved ticketing system counters at Tiruchi Junction. It reduced the pressure on the booking staff.

This facility lasted only a few months and was done away with, much to the shock of the travelling public. Now, even the electronic display boards have been removed.

The Southern Railway had planned to introduce this facility in the reservation counters of 17 other stations – Tiruchi Fort, Tiruverumbur, Srirangam, Ariyalur, Vriddhachalam, Villuppuram, Puducherry, Tiruvannamalai, Vellore Cantonment, Salem Town, Thanjavur, Kumbakonam, Mayiladuthurai, Tiruvarur, Nagapattinam, Tirupathiripuliyur, and Chidambaram in a phased manner.

Railway sources said the system was dispensed with because of the huge maintenance cost. This was not the only facility to be withdrawn after introduction of the same with much fanfare.

In 2008, the railways commissioned reverse osmosis plants for supply of purified drinking water, and it proved a boon for passengers. While two plants were established on platform 1, the main platform, one each had been set up on island platforms 2, 3, 4 and 5. Each can treat 1,000 litres of water per hour and 20,000 litres per day. The railway administration spent Rs. 5 lakh for each “membrane-based water purification” plant. Each plant has an overhead tank to store 1,000 litres of treated water. No manpower was required to switch on and off the plants.

The provision of potable drinking water free of cost was widely welcomed by all sections of society and even there was a plea to step up the capacity of the plant to meet the increased demand.

Now, the RO plants are not functioning and the reason given is technical snag and the maintenance cost.

Thanks to sponsors, the railways had installed three platform ticket vending machines and a coin exchange machine, both at the main entrance of Tiruchi Junction, which considerably reduced crowding at the current ticket issuing counters. Since the sponsors did not come forward to get the machines repaired when they developed snags, all the machines were removed.

Touch screen facilities at the main entrance, VIP entrance, Kallukuzhi entrance, and at the PRS centre were used by the passengers to a big extent. While this facility is missing from Kallukuzhi entrance, the one at the main entrance has developed snag.

The main grouse of the passengers against the railways is the non-functioning of the coach indication boards in all the platforms except platform number one. With all the trains originating and passing via Tiruchi are lengthy with 24 coaches and the long distance trains stopping only for a few minutes, coach indication boards are a must, says M. Khaleelur Rahman, a businessman of Palakkarai.

If the Railways could not revive the coach indication boards immediately, it should adopt the old system of displaying the coach position at a central point of the platform, he says.

The second sleeper class waiting hall has been closed recently and the upper class waiting hall has been converted into reserved passengers waiting hall.

Railway sources say that since even common people, apart from the travelling public, were misusing the sleeper class waiting hall, the railways has decided to close it for the time being. It has planned to give a facelift to it and outsource the maintenance of the same to provide better facilities to the passengers.

Tiruchi Junction is a major railway station and handles 120 express and passenger trains and passenger traffic of about 50,000 people a day. More trains have been introduced via Tiruchi junction in the recent past. With the divisional headquarters just a stone’s throw away from the junction, the railways should accord priority for the creation of various facilities and maintaining them properly, says M. Theresnathan, president, Tiruchi District Consumer Movement.

However, the well-maintained pay and use air conditioned waiting hall at a nominal fee of Rs. 10 for two hours and the facilities at basic amenities complex, including an air-conditioned waiting hall, provide more than the needed comfort to the travelling public.