Railways to go ahead with closure of five printing presses 

Printing of tickets to be outsourced till complete digitisation of ticketing system

May 11, 2023 02:28 am | Updated 12:55 pm IST - CHENNAI

One of the oldest printing machines at the Railway Printing Press in Chennai. File

One of the oldest printing machines at the Railway Printing Press in Chennai. File | Photo Credit: S.R. Raghunathan

Despite stiff resistance from the trade unions, the Ministry of Railways has decided to go ahead with its decision to close down its five printing presses across the network and outsource the printing of tickets until complete digitisation of the ticketing system is achieved.

The 2019 decision to close down the printing presses at Royapuram and Chennai (Southern Railway); Secunderabad (South Central Railway); Byculla and Mumbai (Central Railway); Howrah (Eastern Railway); and Shakurbasti, Delhi (Northern Railway) was deferred after the All India Railwaymen Federation (AIRF), Southern Railway Mazdoor Union (SRMU) and other trade unions opposed the move.

In a communication to General Managers of all Zonal Railways, the Railway Board said a decision had now been taken to wind up the printing presses. The staff would be redeployed suitably and machinery, plants, etc., disposed of by the concerned railway in a manner to derive maximum value for money.

Also Read | Where an iconic press struggles for survival

Real estate

Though it was stated that the land released following the closure of the printing presses should be “gainfully utilised” it was not clear whether the Railways would develop the immovable assets for its own commercial purposes or sell them in open market. The printing presses in all the five cities are located in prominent areas, sources in the Railways told The Hindu on Wednesday.

Upon closure of the printing presses, the printing of Passenger Reservation System (PRS) and Unreserved Ticketing System (UTS) tickets, Privilege Passes, Privilege Ticket Order, etc., would be outsourced to security printers approved by the Reserve Bank of India or the Indian Banks’ Association, the sources said.

The Railways had originally decided on the closure of the five printing presses by March 2020 and authorised the respective Principal Chief Materials Managers to dispose of all unusable printing and other machines in the market on second-hand basis instead of selling them as scrap. 

Significant contribution 

AIRF president N. Kannaiah said that the Indian Railways’ employees were opposing the closure of the printing presses since their contribution to the day-to-day functioning of the Railways administration and train operations was significant over the decades. “It is a policy decision of the Union Government to close down printing presses functioning under various Ministries. While many have wound up, we resisted the closure in the Railways. Printing of tickets and other money value items should not be outsourced,” he said.

Mr. Kannaiah, who is also the general secretary of SRMU, said the staff strength of the printing press in Royapuram had come down from 600 to 35 now due to modernisation of machinery. No fresh recruitment had been carried out and no replacement had been provided for posts that had fallen vacant following the retirement of employees. Established in the British regime, the Royapuram printing press was modernised recently with machinery imported from Spain, and the staff were also sent to that country for training.

“In the event of the closure of the printing press at Royapuram, we would demand developing the land as a new terminal instead of selling the prime property to private parties,” Mr. Kannaiah said.

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