Every customer is “our brand ambassador,” announced Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu while presenting his second Budget on Thursday which promises to raise travellers’ “satisfaction quotient” with newer trains, onboard entertainment, Wi-Fi, better food, increased safety and easy cancellation, among others.
While the fares have not been raised, Mr. Prabhu has promised there will be an increase in quota of lower berths for senior citizens and women and middle bays reserved in coaches for women. In 2016-17, the Railways will increase the senior citizen quota per coach by 50 per cent, resulting in almost 120 lower berths per train for senior citizens.
All stations will be made disabled-friendly and at least one disabled-friendly toilet in all platforms in A1 Class stations will be built in the next financial year. One-time registration for the persons with disabilities for availing concessions while booking tickets online was also announced along with online booking of wheelchairs & Braille-enabled new coaches.
As a pilot, the Railways will make available children’s menu items on trains along with baby foods, hot milk, hot water and changing boards for babies in train toilets.
The Railways will make available local cuisine of choice to passengers while adding 10 IRCTC-operated, mechanised, sophisticated base kitchens.
Sale of tickets
The Railway Minister proposed to make booking and cancellation of tickets simpler.
The Budget suggests sale of tickets through hand-held terminals on suburban or short distance travel and sale of platform tickets through ticket vending machines with credit/debit cards as accepted payment modes besides cash. Further, the e-ticketing facility will be extended to foreign debit/credit cards for foreign tourists and NRIs.
For cancelling a ticket, it is proposed that a customer can simply call the 139 helpline instead of going to a booking window to avail the refund.
With rising number of complaints over rightful passengers being denied tatkal train tickets, the Railway Budget proposes to ensure closed circuit TV coverage at all counters and put in place a system of third party periodic audits and certification of security features of the PRS website.
The Ministry is working with insurance companies to offer optional travel insurance for rail journeys at the time of booking.
It has been proposed to ensure quota in catering units to SCs, STs, OBCs, women and persons with disabilities. The Railways is exploring the feasibility of providing an option for drinking tea in ‘kulhad’.