Tenth grader of JVM-Shyamali, Ranchi, Titir Patra was excited over the railway budget on Tuesday.
Union minister D.V. Sadanand Gowda’s announcement that A1 and A category stations in the country would become Internet hotspots along with some select trains, courtesy wireless fidelity, has the teenager hoping that she would spend more time with her virtual friends.
Jharkhand has two A1 stations, Tatanagar and Dhanbad, and two A-class stations, Ranchi and Hatia.
A promising singer, Titir is a weekly passenger of the Ranchi-Howrah Shatabdi Express to Calcutta, where she diligently trains under two maestros, but finds too much time — around eight hours — wasted in the journey, time she could use studying or catching up with pals online.
Mother Moupiya Patra admits that, on many occasions, she too had felt the need for Internet connectivity on platforms and on trains. “Today, everyone sports smartphones. So it was worth hoping that stations will be wi-fi-enabled one day for bank transactions, bill payments, booking holidays, hooking up with friends and doing work,” she said.
Not just the mother-daughter duo, every tech-savvy passenger of the four stations is delighted.
Kisholoy Bhattacharya, deputy general manager (academics) at Indian Institute of Coal Management, Ranchi, who often boards the Shatabdi to attend meetings in Calcutta, is one in the crowd. “I look at this arrangement as passenger-friendly. Officials of many PSUs travel by Rajdhani or Shatabdi and they will really appreciate wi-fi on platforms and on board. For me, it will be a boon,” he said.
Ranchi and Hatia together register a daily footfall of nearly 30,000 passengers. “Of them, nearly 5,000 travel by Rajdhani and Shatabdi, and most use wi-fi enabled mobile phones,” said a commercial official of Ranchi railway division.
On how soon the facility would be available at these select stations, DRM Deepak Kashyap said: “We are guided by the Railway Board. As soon as we receive the formal directive to install wireless fidelity, we will jump into action.”
Dhanbad, a very busy junction under East Central Railway (ECR) that hosts 107 trains, records an average footfall of over 20,000 every day.
“Wi-fi will bring many smiles,” said R.K. Singh, the public relations officer of ECR. “In this age of smartphones, passengers almost feel helpless without the Internet. Once Dhanbad becomes a hotspot, work and travel would be pleasure.”
A1 Tatanagar, one of the busiest stations under Chakradharpur division of South Eastern Railway, hosts nearly 50,000 passengers every day.
S. Kole, divisional commercial manager, lauded Gowda’s office-on-wheels concept. “We are happy and look forward to getting necessary guidelines in this regard from the Railway Board. Making the station a wi-fi hotspot will help passengers in more ways than one including saving some money,” he said, adding that they hoped to offer Internet within 3-4 months.
Shalini Singh, who frequently travels between Tatanagar and Howrah, hoped network issues would be a thing of the past. “At Tatanagar, using one’s own portable wi-fi is bit of a problem because of network problems. Hope the hotspot service will be glitch-free. I am so looking forward to it.”