Unmindful of the scorching heat, a long queue was spotted waiting on the bridge opposite Central railway station at 11.45 a.m. on Monday. They were commuters, waiting to get a ticket from the single counter that was functioning at the Park Town Mass Rapid Transit System (MRTS) station.
Most of the commuters needed a ticket for a 10-minute ride, but had to wait 25 minutes. “The heat is unbearable. Usually there is such a crowd only during rush hour. But, on Monday, there was a rush even after 11 a.m.,” said S. Rakesh, a middle-aged man who was waiting in the queue.
Passengers complained that it was difficult to manage a long queue with just one person at the counter. “Sometimes they are very slow, and we miss a train by the time we can buy a ticket. The railways should recruit more people,” said M. Jeganath, another person waiting in the queue.
Commuters claimed that such problems exist in other stations of both MRTS and EMUs.
“There is only one counter at the Beach station and the crowd is heavy during rush hour. Sometimes, the queue extends up to Burma Bazaar. We have raised the issue with railway officials several times, but there has been no response,” said T. Ravikumar, president of All-India Train and Bus Passengers' Welfare Association.
P. Gopinath, who uses the MRTS regularly, said that it takes a long time to get a ticket at the Velachery station. “During rush hour there is a train every 15 minutes, and every half an hour during rest of the time. If the commuter misses one train while waiting for the ticket, he/she has to wait for a while before boarding the next,” he said. Even at the Thiruvanmiyur station, one has to wait for sometime to get a ticket.
Senior Southern Railway officials said a total of 40 clerks, who are in training, would be appointed soon and more counters opened. “There is no scope for further expansion at EMU stations as they are old and no space is available,” said an official.
He added that there was also a need for a change in the mindset of commuters. “In Mumbai, regular commuters use season tickets, but in Chennai, not many do. We also have ticket vending machines, but passengers do not use them. Our staff at the counters sell four tickets per minute, so they do try to disperse the crowd as quickly as possible,” said the official.
There are 134 MRTS trains plying across 17 stations transporting 80,000 passengers on a daily basis.