| A crowded Dhanbad railway station on Wednesday. Picture by Gautam Dey
On a day railway minister Dinesh Trivedi announced an increase in passenger fares for the first time in nine years, Ranchi residents were left dealing with other unpalatable train truths they were unable to buy tickets as glitches had brought work to a standstill at all booking offices in the city and e-ticketing facilities were not available either.
According to secretary of Jharkhand Passenger Association Prem Kataruka, who visited all the Indian Railways-operated booking offices in the city, technical glitches had stopped work at the counters since Tuesday, while online e-ticketing facilities had been unavailable since last week.
I visited the reservation counters near BIT Extension Centre, General Post Office and Sainik Bazar to cross check on complaints that I had received. Counters opened at these places for the convenience of city residents are not functioning since Tuesday noon due to some technical problems and passengers have been left with no option but to go to the station to book their tickets, he said.
For city shop owner and regular train traveller Ranjan Kumar, the problems started a week ago. Fed up at being unable to buy a ticket on his own, he has now deputed an employee to go to the station and buy the ticket.
Earlier, I used to book an e-ticket sitting at home whenever I needed to be travel on work. However, for the last one week, every time I have logged on to the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation Limited (IRCTC) site, it has stalled after deducting money from my debit card, he said, adding that it was then that he turned to the city booking counters. When that too stopped working on Tuesday, he was forced to send an employee to the station as he needs to send out someone everyday or travel himself to Calcutta to purchase goods for his metal grill shop.
E-ticketing glitches have hit travel agents in the city hard too.
Manager of Sky Tour and Travel Vinay Aikat, said he was incurring losses to the tune of Rs 10,000 to Rs 15,000 everyday due to the e-ticketing glitches.
However, the railway authorities refused to take any responsibility.
Senior divisional commercial manager of South Eastern Railway K.S. Mukherjee admitted the problem but said the railway was not to be blamed.
It is the result of a fault in Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) cables near Ranchi railway station. The railway is not responsible. Similarly, e-ticket is being provided by IRCTC and Indian Railways has nothing to do with it, he said.
The BSNL engineer responsible for maintenance of cables near the railway station Pati Ram Singh admitted the problem and said work was on to set things right.
Two metres of cables burnt down. Work has started on a war footing and it is expected that all booking offices in the city will get connectivity by evening, he said.
IRCTC officials could not be contacted as the customer care number provided on the website went unanswered. Reply to an email sent to [email protected] is still awaited.
Kataruka said around 20,000 travel by train from Ranchi daily. Out of this, 40 per cent depend on e-ticket and city booking office for reservations.
Mukherjee put the number of reservation-cum-booking tickets sold from the city daily at 5,000.