Beat the queue at stns with SMS ticket

MUMBAI: Soon, you won’t have to stand in a serpentine queue to buy a ticket for a local train ride. SMS-based mobile ticketing, set to kick-start by early April, is in its final stages of completion and will be introduced for the first time in the country on the Western Railway (WR) network.

The scheme was to become a reality in early 2009 but its launch was pushed back after WR noticed areas where some finer details needed ironing.

The biggest hurdle, said officials, was that the initial settings for the pilot project allowed only mobile users with GPRS to avail of the scheme. Also, it had another loophole-the message from a commuter could be sent anytime after boarding a train and the commuter could choose the least expensive fare. As ticket checking is difficult during peak hours, the chances of such a commuter going unnoticed are high.

Sunil Jain, WR chief commercial manager (passenger marketing), said they were addressing these concerns to rule out the possibility of misuse. “There will be a six-digit number at the booking office, displayed on a digital screen, which will keep changing. This will help prevent misuse as the commuter will have to enter the number and his/her destination to book a ticket before entering the station,” he said.

The Railway Board approved of the pilot project in December but the final guidelines regarding free power supply, space for kiosk and other issues were still awaited. “We expect the Board’s go-ahead this week. The project will take another 4-6 weeks to start,” Jain said.