This year has been a year of innovation and change for the Indian Railways. Trying to obliterate the conception that most people have, the national carrier has aimed to be cleaner, greener and above all, passenger-centric. The Railways and IRCTC, have always prided on passenger facilities and have tried to implement measures pan-India.
The Railways has always acted on your feedback and has depended on it to better the services you can avail. 2018 saw the Railways make forays into technology and using it to their advantage. This year, the Railways has, as always, tried pushing the envelope. Here are ten ways the Railways tried to make 2018 better for its passengers.
1. POS machines on trains:-
Acting on the complaints of overcharging of food items by vendors, the Railways decided to bring POS machines on board to avoid discrepancies. The Railways decided that electronic billing and a record of transactions would prevent vendors from charging customers inappropriately. This came close on the heels of the Railways announcing that if a passenger didn’t receive a bill for the food ordered, there would be no charge applied.
2. Safety Button for Women:-
The carried declared 2018 as the year for women’s safety. So, based on passenger feedback, the Railways started taking steps to ensure women that felt secure while travelling in trains. The highlight was the panic button installed on trains. Solo women travellers on trains, have been the inspiration for this button, which is linked with the guard coach, and placed at convenient points near the electric switches. Women finding themselves in trouble can press the button, thereby receiving timely help from authorities.
3. Food vending machines:-
As a first, the Railways installed a food vending machine on the Coimbatore-Bengaluru UDAY express. Passengers could use a tab to order tea, coffee, aerated drinks, canned juices and a variety of snacks. Choose the items from the list, add it to your cart, and once the payment goes through, the vending machine will automatically dispense your items. This was the first time a food-vending machine was used on a train, so passengers could get what they wanted to eat when they wanted it.
4. Cleaner, softer linen:-
The Railways decided to give the train linen an overhaul, and passengers travelling in AC coaches were lucky enough to get cleaner, softer and better quality linen before they turned in for the night. The Railways, acting on a directive, ensured that the blankets given to passengers in AC coaches were devoid of grease, soap, filling or any other additive. This marked a change from the regular woollen blankets which tend to be slightly rough. The new blankets are a comfortable blend of wool and nylon and are washed more frequently than the ones the Railways used to issue earlier.
5. Airline-like meals, thanks to AI and CCTV technology:-
Once again, the Railways, acting on harsh consumer feedback decided to infuse technology into its catering process. AI-based technology and CCTV cameras ensured that kitchen regulations were followed so that the passenger would get top-quality, hygienic food. Ashwani Lohani, Chairman of the Railway Board, promised that ‘high quality and tasty food’ would be served in premium trains on a trial basis, and in all trains after that. He compared the proposed meal, comprising around 2 or 3 items, to the food served in flights.
6. CCTV cameras on trains, to improve security:-
The Railways decided to install cameras in coaches, covering entry gates, aisles and vestibules, to improve passenger safety and security. The footage generated by those cameras are under constant watch by members of the Railway Protection Force. The cameras were planted with an aim to aid the process of tracking the past movements of offenders who enter women-only coaches, to arrest them promptly. The government set aside a huge sum during Budget 2018, ensuring that around 12 lakh CCTV cameras could be installed in trains, to give passengers a sense of safety and security.
7. A Railways Debit Card:-
In a boost to cashless spending, the Indian Railways decided to equip all passengers with their very own SBI Debit Card. The State Bank of India and IRCTC venture will allow passengers to buy rail tickets without charging any additional interest, and also make passengers eligible for loyalty plans. Tickets are the primary source of revenue for the Railways, and post-November 2016, the Railways waived off the fees for online booking. Now, even though IRCTC doesn’t charge for online bookings, it is bearing the cost of bank service charges.
8. Allotment of lower berths to senior citizens and women:-
The Railways made changes to its ticketing system, such that elderly passengers and solo women travellers can book lower berths through the online ticket booking system. The IRCTC official page states that elderly passengers above 60 years of age, and women passengers who are 45 or above, can apply for the quota on the IRCTC website. Earlier, it was only pregnant women who could apply for the lower berth, but now, that facility has been extended to all women travelling alone and the elderly.
9. Applications for grievance redressal and a food menu:-
The Railways went down the technology road and developed two mobile apps to make passenger life simpler. One will allow you to submit complaints, while the other one is a food menu, allowing you to see the prices of menu items beforehand. The Railways ‘Rail Madad’ and ‘Rail Menu’ applications will allow passengers to air their grievances, and check the listed prices so that they are not overcharged during their journey.
10. Change your boarding station:-
This is a huge boost for travellers who want to change their station of origin. In cases where the ticket has already been booked, passengers can log on to the IRCTC account, and change the station. This marks a big change, as earlier, changing the boarding destination was cumbersome and tiring. Now, with a few mouse clicks, boarding points can be changes according to customer convenience!