Twenty one million passengers travel daily on Indian Railways using the unreserved journey facility. An unreserved ticket authorizes these journeys but as the name implies, offers no reserved seats or berths. The ticket is not specific to a train service either. This facility is predominantly used by commuters and suburban travellers – over short distances where assured seating is not a necessity. It is also available to lower income groups travelling longer distances and connects the rural hinterland to districts, towns and cities. Tickets are issued to the unreserved passenger any time of day or night as booking offices remain open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Unreserved Ticketing at Railway Counters
The unreserved ticketing system began as a pilot project in August 2002 on Northern Railway. A precursor to this centralized ticketing system was the Self Printing Ticket Machines (SPTMs), a standalone system that was phased out with the arrival of UTS. Initially the central hardware architecture was supported with station level servers to ensure business continuity in the event of network failures. The booking office operator dispensed the tickets using dumb terminals and dot matrix printers. Over the years with improved reliability of the network a newer design came into force with the introduction of thin clients provided to the operator. For details regarding these, please check out our Technology section.
The graph below shows the growth of the service from 2002. Today the service is available at nearly 5690 locations over all the 16 Zones of the Indian Railways. The Zonal Railways are responsible for manning the UTS counters and running the services, while CRIS maintains the application and ensures continuity of business at the system level. There are nearly 100 ticket types that are sold through the system – based on class of travel, concessions for senior citizens and children, concessions to other categories, and season tickets. The business rules and fares are determined by the policies of the Ministry of Railways.
Jan Sadharan Ticket Booking Sewa (JTBS)
Ticketing services for the unreserved sector were also outsourced as per Railway Board’s Jan Sadharan Ticket Booking Sewa (JTBS) scheme launched in January 2007. Currently JTBS outlets are available at more than 609 locations. These outlets provide self employment opportunities and the operators are offered a commission per passenger. The terminals at these counters connect to the central servers for issuing the tickets.
Automatic Ticket Vending Machines
Apart from manned counters for dispensing tickets, there are also automatic ticket vending machines (ATVM) that are operated using smart cards and touch screens. This technology was first introduced in Mumbai in Oct’2007 and its success led to proliferation to other metropolitan cities. Chennai, Secunderabad, Delhi and Kolkata are the other cities where these machines are currently commissioned. The table below shows the number of machines at each of these regions and the average daily sales as in July 2013.
Mobile-Van Ticketing. ‘Mushkil Aasan’
In order to make ticketing a more convenient experience, the concept of Mobile Counters deployed in Vans was made operational in Jan 2010. As a pilot, one such Van is functional in Delhi and Kolkata issuing both Un-reserved and Reserved Tickets. This model makes use of GPRS/CDMA technologies for connecting to the server.
Currency Operated Ticket vending Machine (CoTVM)
In an endeavour to use cash & coins for ticketing by passenger themselves, the concept of Currency operated ticket vending machine (CoTVM) was evolved and made operational at Mumbai in Sep 2012. As a pilot, one machine is functional in Mumbai, one in Chennai and one in Secunderabad. The CoTVM is an unmanned kiosk which is operated by passengers themselves. It has the feature of issuing Journey tickets & Platform tickets and renewing Season tickets. It can also be used to recharge Smart cards used in ATVMs. Payment is in the form coins, bank notes and smart cards. The machine is capable of accepting specific coins of Re.1, Rs.5 and Rs.10 and bank notes of Rs. 5, Rs.10, Rs.20, Rs.50, Rs.100, Rs.500 and Rs.1000 of Gandhi series. The machine does not accept currency notes with Ashoka Chakra Emblem.
The application has been developed with a two layered architecture in C++. The database requirements are met through a Sybase product, ASE-CE. A Java version of the application is used in the ATVMs to provide additional features in the user interface.
Currently, the hardware is deployed across 06 data centres, including one data centre for Disaster Recovery. To cater to the expansion of the user base for this application, the setup was revamped recently and migrated to a high-end Virtualized setup. This is the first time that Virtualization has been implemented for an application of Indian Railways. The backend setup has a provision to support Business Continuity ensuring nearly 100% uptime for the application. Besides this, at the client end, the so called ‘Smart Clients’ have been deployed which are basically thin clients with a footprint of Relational Database Management System (RDBMS) and application image. These ensure continuous business operations in the event of network / backend outage for 3 days for thin clients and 1 day for ATVMs. The application rides on the Unified Ticketing Network (UTN) for the Passenger Reservation System and Unreserved Ticketing System.
The printing device is a customized Dot Matrix Printer. However, in case of ATVMs, Thermal Printers are being used. CRIS works as the coordinating agency for procurement of peripheral equipment for the Zonal Railways. For details on current procurements, please go to our section on Tender Notices.
The picture here shows a typical ATVM kiosk. The kiosks have a touch screen based user interface, a smart card reader, a thin client and a thermal printer.
The Unreserved Ticketing Services group is part of the commercial applications division within CRIS working under the guidance of Sh. Sanjaya Das, Director Operations. Sh. Das has been associated with the design and implementation of the complex Control Office Application and has returned to CRIS after completing a challenging assignment as Divisional Railway Manager, Ajmer. The group is currently led by Sh. Amit Varadan, General Manager, an Indian Railway Traffic Service officer with 23 years of experience. He is assisted by Sh. P. K. Varshney, Chief Manager who is a domain knowledge expert. The technical team is led by Sh. Namit Verma, Principal Project Engineer. The rest of the team includes Senior Project Engineer, Project Engineers, Senior Software Engineers & Software Engineers spread across the CRIS regional offices at New Delhi, Kolkata, Secunderabad, Chennai and Mumbai.