Look forward to better travel experience on Indian Railways trains! Piyush Goyal-led Railway Ministry recently held a high-level review meet to chalk out the road map for projects in the January to March 2019 quarter. Railway Minister Piyush Goyal interacted with general managers of zonal railways and divisional railway managers, outlining the key areas of focus over the next few months for Indian Railways. From better catering, to upgraded trains, public reservation charts and WiFi on railway stations, we take a look at 8 key benefits that passengers can look forward to by March 2019:
1. Airline-like model for reservations: Following the airline model, Piyush Goyal has directed railway officials to make public details of seat/berth reservation. While booking air tickets, passengers are able to view the seating plan on the airplane and choose seats. Indian Railways is looking to experiment a similar system. According to the Railway Ministry release, Goyal said that the reservation chart should be made available in public domain. Goyal also added that officials should explore the option of allowing booking of train tickets for subsequent stops even after the departure of train.
2. Free high-speed WiFi: With over 700 railway stations already covered under Indian Railways ambitious WiFi project, Piyush Goyal wants over 2,000 railway stations to come under the initiative soon. The final plan is to provide the facility of free high-speed WiFi at all railway stations across the Indian Railways network. For this RailTel has tied up with Google and DoT and the project is being implemented successfully. The facility of free WiFi allows users to use public services like internet banking etc, a move that will particularly benefit people staying near remote railway stations.
3. Faster Rajdhani Express trains: Piyush Goyal has asked railway officials to expedite the ongoing trials of Rajdhani Express trains with two engines (one at the front and the other at the rear). The new push-pull mechanism is likely to reduce the overall journey time for passengers and once successfully tested is likely to be used for key Rajdhani Express trains.
4. Single helpline number for all complaints: Indian Railways will come up with a new single helpline number where all non-security related complaints of passengers can be registered. This is likely to be ready by the end of January 2019.
5. No more overcharging for food: To prevent the menace of vendors charging passengers in an ad hoc way, railway officials have been directed that the food menu should be printed on tin plates with rates inclusive of GST. Additionally, in case the vendor fails to give a bill for sale of food items, passengers have been asked not to pay for the meal. To spread awareness on the same, the tin plate printed menu will carry the message, “No tips please, if no bill, your meal is free”. All TTEs and catering staff will also be provided with PoS (Point-of-Sale) machines, to allow for proper bills to be generated.
6. Swanky stations: Piyush Goyal has directed officials that the redevelopment of 68 railway stations should be complete by February 2019. To keep track of the ongoing work, an integrated dashboard has to maintained where officials can upload current photographs of the projects. Indian Railways is looking to equip its stations with modular facilities with better passenger comforts. LED lighting, CCTVs in kitchens, retiring rooms etc will be provided for this purpose.
7. Train upgradation projects: The first phase of two big train upgradation projects – Operation Swarn and Project Utkrisht – will be completed on a priority basis. While Operation Swarn is aimed at upgrading Rajdhani and Shatabdi Express trains, Utkrisht involves revamping Mail/Express trains with ICF design coaches.
8. Cleanliness of toilets: Indian Railways aims to fit trains with aircraft-like bio-vacuum toilets that will help in efficient flushing and reduce the problem of stink. Goyal has said that images of all completed toilets should be uploaded from 4th January, 2019 onwards. Not only that, under the upgradation of toilets on trains and stations, it has been directed that all washrooms should be brightly lit with adequate supply of water and devoid of any broken pots or urinals.