Straphangers welcome the introduction of automatic vending machines as an addition to manned counters on the MRTS and suburban railways of Chennai. This has been reported by The Hindu today.
Modernisation of the suburban rail systems is the consistent demand of users, and the vending machines, which will work with pre-paid smart cards will help attract more travellers.
However, such solutions need to be complemented by many important changes that will make urban rail commuting a truly positive and efficient experience. Primarily, the railway personnel manning the system require a culture change, that treats suburban railways not as a poor man’s travel option but one that is demonstrably superior to road-based, personal-mode transportation.
This requires, fundamentally, the deployment of staff who are oriented towards fast, urban commuting requirements; who appreciate the value of information to commuters; who think a working clock in a railway platform is important; who are oriented to thinking of transit connections and maps that aid it.
These representative qualities are part of every modern urban rail system, including, presumably, the Delhi and Kolkata Metros, though not the Mumbai suburban railways.
Lighting is a key determinant of attractiveness of urban rail systems: they provide a welcoming, safe ambience, especially for women commuters. All the railway stations in the suburban and MRTS lines display a remarkable disregard for lighting, often on the platforms but almost certainly in the public areas around the stations.
Catering facilities in the suburban lines are woefully behind times, dirty and the personnel displaying poor sense of hygiene. These are times when mobile communications are growing by leaps and bounds. It would make sense, therefore, to have mobile phone kiosks offering hardware and services right inside the stations.
We therefore urge the Railway Minister of State from Tamil Nadu, Mr. P.Velu to upgrade these essential services. The ticket machines are no doubt positive, but a lot more needs to be done.