Planners are exploring the possibility of having an access control system, similar to the Metro network’s, to prevent fare-evaders from entering Mumbai suburban train stations.
In the suburban system, a ticketless traveller is only caught if asked by a ticket-checker. Also, ticket-checking is random and not round-the-clock.
World Bank officials recently met railway officials to brainstorm about having the system. Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) has appointed Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) as consultants to design an integrated ticketing system that will have a common smart card for all modes of transport in the city.
A Mumbai Railway Vikas Corporation (MRVC) official said, “The consultants will carry out study of 12 stations, selected on the basis of high, medium and low footfalls during peak hours. The access control concept is challenging but can be implemented here.”
Metropolitan commissioner Sanjay Khadare said, “The consultant will look for ways to implement the access control or automatic fare collection (AFC) system.”
Based on the study, a call will be made on whether it is possible to have the system implemented on the suburban system.
The MRVC official said, “There are Metro systems (for example, Tokyo), which are more congested than Mumbai’s Metro. Hence, it is possible to implement it here too. We have AFC gates which are slimmer than the ones in the Metro system. They can ensure dispersal of 60 passengers per minute.”
Another official said, “Mumbai’s suburban system has two categories of commuters: first and second class. So, will AFC be able to prevent a commuter with a second class ticket from entering a first class coach. Also, first class commuters may seek exclusive AFC gates as he is paying a premium.”
Another official said, “During peak hours, commuters get upset if there are impediments while entering or exiting the platform. If the crowd gets angry, they can uproot the system.”
But an MRVC official said, “The benefits far outweigh the drawbacks. Apart from weeding out ticketless travellers, we will get rich data of commuters as well as the travel pattern, which will allow us to deploy our resources to the fullest benefit. We can also tweak the time-table on the basis of data on travel patterns.”
Ticket-checkers wind up their work once they achieve their targets now. The staff can be used to focus on first class coaches as all those in ticketing areas are valid ticket-holders, the official added.
Shirish Deshpande of Mumbai Grahak Panchayat said, “It is long overdue but the authorities should tread carefully in the beginning by offering both options. Also, the fears do not have much basis as there was apprehension on whether suburban commuters will be able to adjust in the Metro’s closed door system.”
Subhash Gupta of Rail Yatri Sangh said, ” It is not possible to implement it in Mumbai, where the railway boundary is porous, and people walk on the platform from tracks. Also, it will lead to long queues, which will lead to chaos.”
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