Indian Railways: Passengers INSIDE the train are CUSTOMERS

posted by Ravi Arora May 13, 2018

In the previous post I shared a few ideas that were triggered by the Bengaluru traffic. This post carries a few ideas which occurred to me because of the problems I observed during the recent train travel. The message I would like to leave is: We all learn to live (unconsciously) with problems that we often encounter and these problems gradually become an integral part of our lives. These are considered as constraints under which we need to operate.

With the fast-changing technologies, it is worth to revisit such problems and challenge if they could be solved.

We had a plan to take a short break to Goa last month. Due to sudden changes in work schedule, I had to change (advance) the dates. We always prefer to take the train to Goa from Pune to maximise our time on the beach. We tried Tatkal, but unfortunately I got just one seat in AC2 and had to book the remaining in Sleeper class.

On the date of departure, we checked the running status of train and reached Pune station accordingly. Unfortunately, the train kept getting delayed and finally arrived after two hours of wait time. We were told that this delay was due to track repair work between Pune and the ealrier station (stop). The authorities were probably aware of this beforehand and ideally should have got reflected in the train running status. During the wait time at Pune, I showed my son the digital board that indicated the position of our coach relative to the engine. He was impressed! We realized that the two coaches in which we had seats were several coaches apart, which increased my anxiety.  Just before the arrival of train, I took my family to the boarding point for the AC2 coach and that is when I showed my son the small boards that indicated the exact position of the coach on the platform. The train arrived and our coach was right in fron of us, which impressed my son. I remembered the old days when there was panic on the platform to find the location of the coach and passengers were at the mercy of local knowledge of coolies and shop owners.

The first few hours of the journey were fun, we played some board games and enjoyed the food served by the IRCTC catering services. After a few hours I was looking to snack again and decided to get out of the train at the next stop and get some local food. I saw a couple who were also planning to get down to get some milk for their little child.

We all got down at the next stop, took a few steps hurriedly towards left and right, but could not find any shop that would sell snack or milk. The fear of missing the train made us rush back into the train rather too soon. We felt we should have searched a little more for the food.

This was the moment when I realized that perhaps one has thought about the need of the passengers who are inside the train. They are perhaps not considered as the customers. All the improvements made in the last few years have considered those people as customers who would book the ticket and then board the train. Why doesn’t IRCTC look at the needs of passengers who are inside the train. Once we do it we get several ideas that could be solved quickly by the irctc app without investments:

  1. Letting the passengers know the platform on which the train is approaching… a few minutes ahead of time. Information about the side on which the platform would be very useful for passengers travelling with lot of baggage in long distance trains.
  2. Google like map of all railway platforms clearly showing the location of various shops along with the list of items they sell with price
  3. Menu of all the all eateries on the platform and rating of their food – the way Zomato does
  4. A Swiggy type of food delivery system where the passengers can order food of their choice from the eateries of their choice… indicating their coach and seat number where the ordered food could be delivered. There are several methods to safeguard interest of both sides for this transaction.
  5. A notification to all the passengers 30 seconds before the departure of train so that people could return to their seats.
  6. Ability to call the cleaning staff in case there is an accidental spillage of food and beverage.

Several of these ideas could be turned into a revenue model by Indian Railways, which would also improve the service levels at the platforms.