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Restriction draws flak from passengers

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CROWD: Passengers at unreserved ticketing counters in Madurai railway junction.
CROWD: Passengers at unreserved ticketing counters in Madurai railway junction.

Under ‘Unreserved Ticketing System’ for less than 200 km railway journey

MADURAI: Withdrawal of issuing unreserved train tickets three days prior to date of journey under the ‘Unreserved Ticketing System’ (UTS) for journeys made for a distance less than 200 km has drawn flak from the travelling public.

The Indian Railways popularised UTS in 2005 for the benefit for passengers with unreserved tickets who form 92 per cent of total train passengers. This spared the people of waiting in long queues to buy tickets on the day of journey. However, it was “modified” last July after the railways detected “leakage of revenue” as UTS tickets were “misused for multiple journeys.”

“Railways should strengthen its ticket checking wing to prevent misuse by a negligible number of passengers instead of withdrawing the facility per se for a large number of passengers,” said K. Muthiah, executive trustee of Consortium for Consumer Justice. The consortium has received representations from several quarters on the issue.

“In simple terms, modification of UTS means people from Madurai cannot buy UTS tickets to go to Tiruchi, Tirunelveli, Tenkasi and Rameswaram. If people on these routes, who form a major chunk of passengers using unreserved tickets, are not able to get tickets then the facility is not worth it,” he said.

Not only the passengers, but also the railways benefited from UTS. “The Railways will get the money three days in advance. Ticket counters will not be crowded, especially during festival, vacation and marriage seasons. It is because the crowd is evenly distributed throughout the day as people buy UTS tickets during less-crowded time,” Mr. Muthiah said.

Besides, the Railways also benefited due to cancellation of tickets. “And not all who cancel their journeys come to the Railways to get the refund,” he said.

A large number of people, anxious to find seats in unreserved coaches of Vaigai Express and passenger trains bound for Rameswaram, Senchottah and Dindigul, jostle at the UTS counters in Madurai junction. Uniformed personnel have to intervene and regulate them at the counters between 5.30 a.m. and 7 a.m. every day.

Passengers feel that the railways should lift the restriction either by allowing all UTS bookings at least one day in advance or permitting UTS booking for a distance of 50 km or above, so that misuse is reduced. A railway staff suggested that though it is not possible to check each and every passenger coming out of the unreserved coaches, at least mass ticket checking drives could be conducted frequently to discourage misuse. The Divisional Railway Manager, Anil Singhal, said that the decision was taken by the Railway Board and any further modification could be done only by it. At a time when the railways has allowed use of internet and extended time up to 90 days for reservation for passengers of reserved coaches, restricting UTS, a popular facility, which mostly serves the poor and the aged who cannot afford to travel in reserved coaches, is seen as unfair.

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