Metro Railway passengers, who have by mistake inserted coins into an automated ticket machine lying unused at stations, have regretted it. They did not get a ticket, nor will they get back their money.
The Metro authorities had spent more than Rs 1.5 crore to instal the coin-operated automatic ticket machines in 1990 in different stations but these have been gathering dust for years, thanks to changes in fares and a maddening variation on coins of the same denomination.
“The machines remain inoperative because of the large variations in the weight of the Rs-2 coins in circulation. There is no problem with the machines,” insisted Metro general manager Vinod Kumar. Realising that the machines would become junk soon, Metro Rail will follow its Delhi counterpart’s example and introduce smart cards, which are much more reliable.
“Delhi Metro is using smart cards successfully and we will introduce them here, too, by next year-end,” Kumar said. Initially, 25 per cent of the machines will be modified on an experimental basis. “If it is successful, smart cards will be used in all the machines,” he said.
In 1990, eight automatic ticket machines were installed at Tollygunge and Esplanade stations. The total cost of installing these state-of-the-art machines exceeded Rs 1.5 crore. These were installed to cope with the growing number of passengers.
Because of the funds crunch, the Metro authorities decided that since opening more booking counters and recruiting more people would not be financially viable, the machines would solve the problem. “The idea was to provide faster service, without putting much pressure on the coffer,” the Metro general manager said.
According to Metro officials, the machine could take 20 types of coins but only one could be standardised. Passengers used both one and two-rupee coins. Initially, the system ran smoothly. Soon it stumbled, as variations in two-rupee coins increased. “The one and two-rupee coins had 20 variations and so, the machines became non-functional,” said a Metro official.
Later, after the hike in the ticket rates, the authorities planned to standardise five-rupee coins in the machines. “The plan was implemented and we thought we could use these once again. However, in October 2001, a Re 1 surcharge was imposed by the railway ministry and we had to shelve our plans,” the official said. The Metro Rail employees' union blamed the management for the fiasco. It alleged that every month, several lakhs were spent on their upkeep though the machines were not used.