IRCTC To Enable Online Booking For Feature Phone Users; Rail Fares Will Be Finally Depoliticized
Union Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu has announced that IRCTC will soon launch a product, using which non-smartphone users can easily book an online ticket. Right now, only those who can access Internet via smartphone or desktop/laptop can use IRCTC’s app/website to book an online ticket.
Feature phone users are left with no other option, than to visit a railway counter to book tickets. Again, 90% of the booking counters don’t accept credit/debit cards, and cash is the only medium to book a tickets for such non-smartphone users.
Govt. is aware that for a truly cashless nation, important functionaries such as Indian Rail and India Post should be first converted into fully digital mode.
The Minister assured that slowly but gradually, more and more counters would be enabled with PoS terminals for seamless cashless payments.
He said, “We have already installed many point of sale (POS) machines at many suburban stations for easy transactions for commuters in the city. We are also introducing e-wallets and encouraging payment through mobile applications. We will work towards enabling commuters, who are not in possession of smartphones, to be able to book tickets via their phones,”
Railfare Would Be Depoliticized
If you have booked a physical railway ticket lately, then you must have seen this message on the tickets: “Indian Railways recovers only 57% of cost of travel on an average”
Few weeks back, the same message started appearing on online tickets as well.
This is a desperate attempt by Indian Railways to create awareness about their losses, which are mainly occurring due to politicization of railway fares. As political observers will notice, the easiest way to garner more votes in rural hinterland is to announce reduction in rail fares.
Indian Railways fail to increase fares, which translates to more losses, and the cycle continues. It is estimated that Indian Rail absorbs Rs 30,000 crore+ of losses every year; and rail fares is one of the strongest reasons.
But finally, such politicization of rail fares would end.
As per reports coming in, Indian Railways has sent a proposal to the Cabinet, to create an independent agency for monitoring rail fares. If such an independent agency is approved, then the ‘thorny’ and politically sensitive issue of rail fares can be taken care of professionally, without any political influence.
Proposed to be named as Railway Development Authority of India, this agency will have a Chairman and 4 members who will calibrate the fares based on the current market rates (fuel, labor costs, maintenance cost etc), and revise the fares accordingly.
Minister Prabhu said, “The proposed authority would be free to recommend fares and freight rates. It would rationalize the entire fare structure for the railways. It would be a big transformational change for the organisation. We will keep rationalising fare as per the market demand..”
This independent body will be also responsible for maintaining safety standards and performance metrics; and has been hailed as the second biggest ‘rail’ reform, as the merger of their rail budget with the Union budget.
We will keep you updated as more details come in..