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Mumbai Railways’s New QR Pass System And The Future Of Local Commute

In an attempt to make identifying essential service employees easier while allowing Local Train access, the Indian Railways may have cracked the code to solve most of Mumbai’s local train problems.

Passengers walking wearing masks at a railways station in Mumbai
Representative image of a railway platform in Mumbai | Anshuman Poyrekar/HT

To ensure adequate social distancing is maintained in local trains by making compartments less crowded, the Maharashtra Government issued an order in July. This order made it mandatory for essential service employees availing the service to possess a QR code based e-pass on their smartphone along with a valid train ticket. This QR code based system was made mandatory for easier identification of individuals. Previously, a checker was required to check employee ID cards to ensure only valid travelers could avail the service. Now, the QR coded ID cards are simply scanned by the checker to ensure that they are valid to travel on that particular day.

The system, although slightly cumbersome to begin with, is simple. The Human resource department of an organization submits a list of employees along with their details to the IT Cell of the Police Commissioner. Any additional details are filled in by the employee through an SMS web link on their smartphone. Following the final form submission a QR code based ID is generated for the employees based on the information provided. This code is scanned at the entry point of the railway station to ensure that the employee is eligible to travel on that day. This intuitive technology may be the answer to multiple problems that Mumbai’s suburban railway faces.

For years, the railway authorities have been trying to formulate plans to reduce crowding in local trains due to high volume of commuters at peak hours. The Metro Railways came with a multitude of methods as an example to solve this very problem. The Mumbai Railways themselves, although in an attempt to make acquiring a ticket easier, introduced the UTS mobile application. However, neither has the suburban railways adapted to the Metro technology, nor has the application helped reduce line length at ticket windows. Additionally, the lack of adequate security measures to limit access to valid commuters means that Mumbai’s trains are filled with ticket-less travelers. A report by the western Railways for the year 2018-19 put the number of ticket less or “irregular passengers” at a staggering 14 million a year. This number does not include the cases that may get away with ticket-less travelling.

Considering the operating expenditure of the railways shows more spending than earnings, this QR code based system may be the most inexpensive and effective way to solve its problems.

How will the QR code system solve Mumbai’s Local train issue?

In the future, when local train services are resumed for the general crowd, a new entry and exit system based on QR coded tickets could be considered. This system involves the use of existing QR code technology on every ticket issued by the booking office. The tickets will carry this QR code along with the regular travel details. This QR code can also be acquired via smartphones using the existing Application reducing lines at ticket windows. Simple line management methods will allow for officials to scan each QR code granting platform access only to passengers with a valid ticket.

Such a system quickly eliminates the number of people that gain access to the railways without a ticket. Fewer passengers reaching the platform at one time due to the screening process makes for less crowded trains and equal distribution of passengers over the day. Further, as an option, the railway may employ scans at exit points to ensure that the individual has not extended their travel distance. However, considering the lack of employees, the railways could continue using the ticket examiner system where the examiner simply scans the QR code to ensure that the ride is valid.

The move by the Government of Maharashtra is definitely in the right direction.The COVID-19 lock down acts as a valuable opportunity to test such new and improved methods to solve Mumbai’s commute problems. Smart application of the same with adequate testing will make for a better future travel experience in the city.

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