Shortage of tokens has boosted the demand for Metro smart cards
Shortage of tokens is apparently forcing an increasing number of Metro rail commuters to opt for the multiple-ride smart card, raising hopes of a shorter wait at the counters and a cut in operation cost.
Around 50,000 smart cards had been sold in the past three months, a steep rise from the earlier monthly average of 10,000 cards.
Of the four lakh-odd smart cards procured before their introduction in July last year, around 3.9 had been sold, prompting the Metro authorities to place orders for another 3 lakh. “The sale of smart cards has increased significantly since May as there is a shortage of tokens which we had introduced to replace paper tickets,” a Metro official said on Sunday.
“We are in the process of procuring three lakh more smart cards as the old stock will soon be exhausted,” said Protyush Ghosh, deputy general manager, Metro rail. According to sources, the authorities have floated tenders to procure the cards.
“More commuters using smart cards is good news for Metro. The ticket/token counters will have smaller queues,” said an official.
A major complaint by regular commuters against the Metro authorities is long queues at counters. “Everyday I have to stand at least 10 minutes on an average to buy a token. I miss one train on each trip,” said Bhaskar Roy, a PSU official who commutes between Dum Dum and Park Street daily.
Cards are economic for commuters as they end up paying less for each journey compared with tokens and also get added value on the amount paid during each recharge.
The smart cards and the tokens made their debut in Calcutta Metro on July 8 last year. Delhi Metro has been using them since its inception in December 2002.
In the initial three-four months, around two lakh cards had been sold, sources said. The sale dipped to an average of 10,000 a month after that, only to pick up around three years ago following a shortage of tokens.
The city’s transport lifeline is left with barely 70,000 of the 600,000 tokens it had started out with, forcing employees at some of the busier stations to fall back on paper tickets of the typed used on suburban lines.
Metro had reported how the railway had taken a Rs 85-lakh hit by losing more than 500,000 tokens to “memento hunters” within a year of switching to a smart ticketing system. “We have failed to come up with a fool-proof system to prevent commuters from leaving stations with the tokens,” said an official.
Metro is in the process of procuring 200,000 tokens every 15 days. “We had recently bought 50,000 tokens. But the leakage is continuing and so there will be shortage again,” said an official.
“The shortage is forcing the Metro authorities to issue paper tickets at many stations. More people opting for the smart card will bring down the recurring expenditure on buying tokens,” the official added.