Travel without a railway ticket at your own risk. Fortress checks are being planned at select stations to curb the menace of ticketless travel.
The railway's top ticketing boss, member (traffic) DP Pande, has written to all general managers to crack the whip and have between two and four 'fortress' checks a month. These should be led by senior functionaries like divisional railway managers, he asserted. A fortress check is one in which a particular station is chosen and then over a stipulated period of anything between 24 and 36 hours, hundreds of ticket-checkers and security staff are deployed to check every passenger using the station.
The Railway Board has told railway officials in Mumbai and elsewhere that the fall in the number of tickets being sold - which is taken as drop in passenger count - has a lot to do with the fact that an increasing number of people might be travelling without tickets than ever before.
dna was the first to report on April 9 that the Western Railway (WR) suburban network has for the first time in over a decade shown a fall in the number of passengers for the financial year which ended on March 31. Statistics show that between April 2013 and March 2014, WR's suburban system carried 128.11 crore passengers compared to 129.49 crore for the same period between 2012 and 2013, a sizeable drop of 1.38 crore passengers. In sheer terms, WR officials said the drop was around 38,000 passengers every day. Some city-based officials disagree, but the railway board is veering to the point that since crowds on Mumbai's suburban system don't seem to be thinning, it must be the ticketless travel that is causing these slumps in its statistic books.
The ticket-checking numbers, cases filed and fines collected are below the targets set by the board for the financial year which recently ended, officials said. On WR, against a target of Rs41.8 crore, the ticket-checkers managed to collect only Rs36.2 crore in fines. This, despite WR stretching itself every bit to overhaul the sum of Rs31.3 crore that was collected as fines in the financial year ending March 31, 2013.
Between September last year and March this year, WR conducted fortress checks for 14 days at Bandra, Dadar, Andheri Borivli and Virar stations among others. Using a whopping 2,537 ticket-checkers and 494 RPF personnel, 17,783 people were caught travelling without tickets. A total of Rs67.3 lakh was collected in fines. "This year the number of fortress checks would be higher than ever before," a senior railway official told dna.