Downtown

Ticket to peace during rush hour

N. Anbazhagan, ATVM facilitator at Egmore station.Photo: Vikas vasu

N. Anbazhagan, ATVM facilitator at Egmore station.Photo: Vikas vasu   | Photo Credit: vikas vasu

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Retired railway staff make queues at suburban stations shorter. LIFFY THOMAS finds out how

“Tambaram two, return,” a passenger, who seems to be in a tearing hurry, asks the staff manning the Automatic Ticket Vending Machine at the Egmore station.

“Rs. 40,” he says, tapping the slot machine with a finger in a series of strokes and briskly hands out the tickets. Before he could tuck the currency notes between two fingers on the other hand, another passenger makes his request.

It is 5.40 p.m. on a weekday, when suburban stations experience a bustle at the ticket counters. However, at Egmore, passengers using the ATVM leave faster than those queuing up before the counters.

ATVM facilitators such as N. Anbazhagan are a help to passengers with smart cards who have difficulty operating the slot machine. He is one of the retired employees of Southern Railway who volunteers to clear the crowd during the peak hour by operating the ATVMs.

Some of these men are so quick on the slot machine that they take only four seconds to issue a ticket.

“I issue over 2,500 tickets in six hours at Egmore,” says Anbazhagan, who retired from the mechanical department and has been doing this voluntary work for the Railways for the last three years.

“Last week, I brought a facilitator for the Chennai Fort station. Our aim is to reduce the length of the queue and educate people about the smart card.”

Nearly 30 such retired volunteers help out at various suburban stations and get a small commission for their work.

At Egmore, there are three people who take turns, while at West Mambalam, there are two. “Oh! At Mambalam every day is a busy day. On weekends, it is the shopping crowd. In 30 minutes, we clear over 500 passengers,” says Mambalam resident Gurudev Singh who took VRS as chief booking supervisor.

ATVMs were introduced for commuters of the Chennai suburban EMU network in 2008, but never became popular. In some stations, they are in a state of disuse as people do not know how to use them. Some have stopped functioning because of poor usage.

Managing the crowd at ATVMs is no easy task. “If the AVTM fails, we are helpless. So, we switch off the machine after issuing 2,500 tickets. This way, we take care of its maintenance,” says Singh.

Southern Railway officials agree these facilitators have increased the patronage of these machines. “In some sections the ATVM facilitators have boosted sale of tickets. Initially, we had instructions for passengers on how to use the smart card on the machines, but they were torn off. We will be adding more machines at stations where the usage is good,” said a senior official.

The Commercial Department is also looking for more facilitators.

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Printable version | Jan 21, 2020 12:16:50 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/downtown/ticket-to-peace-during-rush-hour/article6227961.ece

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