It will soon be the end of the road for printed railway tickets in the country.
A file has been moved in the Railway Ministry which will replace the paper ticket with an SMS, which commuters will receive each time they book a ticket at the railway counter. Currently, only those who buy e-tickets online get an SMS.
Officials said the ministry’s finance directorate is perusing the matter. The Railways, officials said, will purchase premium services, which send out an SMS the moment ticket details are punched into the Passenger Reservation System machines installed at counters across the country. Once the new system is in place, the 162-year-old organisation’s crossover to the digital age would be complete.
The plan is to eventually phase out thousands of old printers and even schedule charts that are pasted on train coaches.
The SMS tickets might also carry advertisements, so that the national transporter does not have to bear the cost of sending them. Railways has already started talking to advertising agencies in this regard.
While commercial bulk SMSes cost more than ordinary SMSes, the Railways is likely to go for the former. This is because they apprehend that if a commuter does not get an instant SMS at the counter, he might not leave till he does, leading to long queues. “That’s because the SMS will be the only proof that he has purchased a ticket,” said a senior railway official.
One point raised during deliberations, which led to the move, was that nowhere in the Railway Act or in other rules does it say that a ticket has to be printed on paper.
A question that came up was what happens if one does not have a mobile phone. Officials said such a passenger will get a paper ticket on request. “As per our survey, very few e-ticket holders now carry printouts. We expect the same pattern in users of PRS tickets,” the official said. If someone loses his phone, a duplicate ticket will be issued after furnishing valid proof.
Officials believe that by not printing tickets and eventually charts, the national transporter will save 1,200 tonnes of paper. Of the 11 lakh tickets sold every day, six lakh are paper tickets.
As a precursor to the move, the Railways has stopped issuing freshly printed ‘cancelled tickets’ each time a ticket is cancelled. This saves them Rs 70 lakh per year.
Additionally, reservation charts are not being printed for one Rajdhani and one Shatabdi Express as a pilot project.