Indian Railways speeds along on Digital fast track

Around 30-50 million passengers in the reserved category have switched over to digital payments.

NEW DELHI: A little more than a year since demonetisation and the consequent push for digital payments by the government, Indian Railways seems to have benefitted substantially.

Online purchases of reserved railway tickets have climbed from 58 per cent in November 2016 to over 70 per cent now. About 30-50 million passengers in the reserved category have switched over to the digital mode of payments.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced the demonetisation of old Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes, sucking out 86 per cent of the currency in circulation. One of the stated aims of the note ban was promoting digital transactions.

Over the same period, oil companies could not hold on to their digital consumer base.

“Digital payments, which were 9.5 per cent before demonetisation, climbed to 23 per cent and even 40 per cent in some areas at their peak. These now make up for 18 per cent of all fuel purchases,” said an executive with an oil marketing company.

The revenue from digital railway ticketing, which was Rs 49 crore a day before demonetisation, has risen to Rs 80-85 crore in November 2017.

Railway revenue from reserved tickets is Rs 120 crore a day, of which Rs 25-30 crore is transacted at ticket counters. Of the 1.25 million passengers a day who buy reserved tickets, around 750,000 now book online.

“We want to increase the number of cashless transactions at ticket counters. Apart from card-swipe machines, we have BHIM or UPI (Unified Payments Interface) in all counters from December 1,” said Mohammed Jamshed, member, traffic, Indian Railways.

The BHIM mobile app was launched by the government after demonetisation to facilitate instant fund transfers.

The railways have made card-swipe machines available at almost all of its counters. These machines were available at only 72 counters in November 2016. Digital transactions are possible now at unreserved ticket counters, suburban ticket counters, and parcel and catering offices.

Railway revenue from passenger services rose 5.2 per cent to Rs 31,820 crore between April 1 and November 20 this year from Rs 30,241 crore during the same period last year. The railways claim a series of passenger-related initiatives, including a dynamic fare system, contributed extra revenue of Rs 358 crore in premium trains.

To push digital transactions, the railways had waived service charge on tickets booked through the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation website and had also offered a 5 per cent discount on payments made online for services like catering and booking retiring rooms. Besides, a free insurance of Rs 10 lakh was also offered in case of online ticket booking.

With smartphones becoming popular among the masses, Indian Railways has introduced various mobile apps for the convenience of passengers, said Railway Minister Piyush Goyal on Thursday.

Goyal on his official page said, “Indian Railways has been closely linked to using IT for delivering services. Computer ticketing facility was introduced in Delhi region way back in 1982-83, long before computers became popular in India. E-ticketing or online booking has grown from strength to strength.”

The new railway Apps launched on the Android and iOS platforms will reshape service, delivery and complaint redressal mechanism in almost every sphere, he said.

The apps will help in reducing turnaround time, eliminate hassles for users and bring transparency and accountability in the functioning of railways.

The various other functions are –

  1. Rail Saarthi has a single window interface that makes it user friendly. Passengers can use this App to book their tickets, enquire about the train status before starting a journey and share feedback after its completion.
  2. UTS (Unreserved Ticketing System) App can be used to purchase unreserved train tickets. This also allows one to buy platform or season tickets. There is no need for taking print out of the contents. Passengers can just display it on their mobiles by using show ticket feature.
  3. IRCTC Rail Connect is a comprehensive App with facilities of purchasing a train ticket, with links to other apps for purchasing air ticket, booking a meal and plan a trip with IRCTC tourism feature.
  4. IRCTC Tourism App helps you to plan your vacation and book tour packages for travelling within India at comparatively affordable prices.
  5. IRCTC Catering- Food on Track App allows you to book a meal of your choice anywhere in the country. You can opt from Cash on Delivery or Credit Card options for payment. All you need to do is use your PNR number, view the menu, and order a meal.
  6. NTES (National Train Enquiry System) App is highly useful for people who commute daily or take frequent trips. It provides commuters with train schedule and real time-status information, like live stations or cancelled trains.
  7. COMS (Complaint Management System) is the App to share any rail related complaints.
  8. Coachmitra and Cleanmycoach are pair of useful Apps which help the travellers to get their compartments cleaned immediately. Feedback can be sent on the website CLEANMYCOACH.COM COACHMITRA.
  9. Railways Parcel Application App helps users to know the current status of their parcel booked with the Railways and calculate the approximate fare based on weight and scale of the train” the page added.

Railways are in the process of developing more apps and increasing the scope and volume of services being delivered through this user-friendly medium.