Buying a ticket for a suburban electric train is a simple task. But at the Tambaram railway station, it has become an ordeal. A shortage of staff at the ticket counters combined with an increase in the number of people availing of the trains' services (due to steep fares in government buses) has resulted in overcrowding at the ticket counters on both the eastern and western sides of the station.
Southern Railway sources said people waiting in endless queues at ticket counters, especially during rush hours on Friday evenings and Monday mornings, was a common sight. With the onset of summer vacations, the number of people travelling to different parts of the city and other far-flung suburban locations such as Arakkonam, Tiruvallur, Gummidipoondi and Kancheepuram too, has increased.
At present, two counters function on the eastern side, and five on the western.
On days considered auspicious, muhurthams for instance, the crowds increase. On Wednesday, the crowd swelled to more than its usual size at ticket counters on both sides. Between 8 a.m. and 9.30 a.m., people waited for as long as 45 minutes to get a ticket, missing between four and five trains to Chennai Beach, and at least a couple towards Chengalpattu. This led to frayed tempers amongst people waiting in the queue.
Added to this, only three of the nine ceiling fans were working near the ticket counters. Further, many impatient men were seen jumping the queue to get to the counter, resulting in a mild scuffle amongst some of the waiting commuters. No policeman however, was seen regulating the crowd.
This problem is not restricted just to Tambaram, but exists at nearly all the suburban stations on the Tambaram – Chennai Beach line, during rush hours on weekdays, Southern Railway sources said.
People preferred to travel by electric train as it saves them both time and money. “I have to spend anywhere between Rs. 7 and Rs. 11 to reach hospitals in Chromepet and Pallavaram by Metropolitan Transport Corporation buses, but a train ticket costs only Rs. 4,” said C. Pushpa.
Southern Railway officials said ticket sales in Tambaram were the highest on the suburban sector. Monthly sales of tickets, which stood at 7.12 lakh in November 2010, went up to 7.5 lakh in November 2011, when the State government hiked bus fares.
In December 2011, it shot up to 8.37 lakh and In January this year, 8.71 lakh tickets were sold in Tambaram. Last month, the figure touched 8.26 lakh. Nearly 95 per cent of the tickets sold are on the suburban sector, while the remaining are to neighbouring and southern districts.
Southern Railway has also been unable to deploy adequate staff at the automatic ticket vending machines in the stations, due to lack of manpower, sources added.