Southern Railways’ decision on Monday to stay its earlier order to stop issuing sleeper class tickets to short-distance commuters from railway stations has temporarily put an end to confusions among passengers as well as railway officers. However, the issue has once again stressed the need of using better technology to address problems related to issuing sleeper tickets from unreserved ticket counters.
“Short-distance passengers are given sleeper class tickets from the counters without knowing whether there are berths vacant or not. If a hand-held terminal is given to the train ticket examiners (TTEs), the issue can be solved,” said an officer from the Thiruvananthapuram railway division.
“Earlier, there was a rolling display system installed in major stations from which passengers would come to know the availability of seats in reserved compartments. The system is seen nowhere now,” said an officer from the Palakkad railway division.
The railways decided to stop issuing sleeper class tickets to short-distance commuters from railway stations following increasing number of complaints from the long-distance reserved commuters that the season tickets holders and short-distance passengers were occupying their reserved seats. “It is due to lack of space in general compartments that regular commuters are boarding reserved coaches. If the number of de-reserved coaches are increased, it would be helpful for both short-distance and long-distance commuters,” officers opined.
Introduction of current booking system in more stations is another solution to the issue. At present the facility is available in Thiruvananthapuram, Ernakulam, Thrissur and Palakkad stations in the state. With the technology, commuters can reserve their berths even after the passengers chart is prepared, subjected to availability. “We have also been requesting Southern Railway authorities to allot at least a couple of ‘last charting stations’ in the state. For instance, the last charting station for the New Delhi-Thiruvananthapuram Kerala Express (train no 12626) is Vijayawada. So, the details of vacant seats is not available in stations after Vijayawada. If a last charting station is allotted in any of the major stations in Kerala, it will be helpful,” officers said.
Welcoming the decision , Thrissur Railway Passengers Association (TRPA) general secretary P Krishnakumar said, “Instead of limiting options for passengers, the railways should introduce better technology solutions and offer better facilities.”