NEW DELHI: Railways has invited private players to sell tickets of both reserved and unreserved category, inviting ire of employee unions.

The unions are crying foul and opposing the move as it has come after the new dispensation decided to outsource cleaning of 50 major stations and decided to deploy ‘Gate Mitras’ (counselors) hired by private agencies at unmanned level crossings instead of posting trackmen.

The unions have termed these moves as “back-door” privatization of railway operations.

The stiff resistance came after the Railway Board’s directive to allow public-private partnership in the establishment and operation of computerized Passenger Reservation System (PRS)-cum-Unreserved Ticketing System terminals. As of now, all the PRS counters across the country are operated by railway employees while only authorized travel agents are allowed to sell e-tickets.

The new reservation centres would be called Yatri Ticket Suvidha Kendras (YTSK). Railways justify the plan saying the move would help expansion of the facilities for purchase of tickets that would help passengers.

To start with, railways would allow only authorized ticketing agents with five year experience and those who have an office outside the railway station equipped with adequate infrastructure to run the YTSK.

Private players would be given permission to operate up to four terminals on the pattern and standard at par with the computerized PRS centres of Railways.

However, the timings of operations of the terminals have been fixed one hour behind the opening timing of PRS counters with aim to prevent the operators from getting into any malpractice. At railways’ run PRS centre the booking of normal tickets opens at 8 am and tatkal booking at 10 am, but privately-operated YTSKs would be allowed to open only at 9 am and 11 am.

The unions argue that in the past also, outsourcing of such activities to private parties has resulted in lots of discrepancies, frauds and public complaints. It said even authorized travel agents were banned for a pretty long time and opening the flood gate to private parties will definitely give a bad name to railways.

A railway official rejected the contention, saying private players would give better ticketing service to rail travelers.

Source: TOI