CHENNAI: Imagine how your day would be if you had to walk up and down a train making passengers cough up extra cash for tickets they had reserved weeks or months in advance. And imagine having to receive and give change to them. This is the plight that Travelling Ticket Examiners (TTEs) are faced with for the next two months, now that rail fares have been hiked.
“Each TTE is in charge of three coaches, which means they have to handle over 200 travellers. This can be tiring, especially during overnight journeys, when some passengers have to be woken up. Some of them proffer excuses to resist paying the excess fare,” said a TTE in the Chennai Division.
Another TTE in the Chennai-Palakkad Division said, “Sometimes we have to haggle with passengers. They pick this time to complain about rats and cockroaches in compartments while paying the excess fare.”
While the TTEs may not be completely unexposed to problems with pesky travellers, the bigger problem, according to some of them, was the exchange of small change. After the last rail fare hike in October 2013, TTEs found themselves losing up to `150 of their own money every time they boarded a train on duty, as they would have to sometimes forego change when the passenger did not have any. They said this was happening because the railway administration did not give them any change to start with, a predicament that continues today.
Consider a sleeper class ticket from Chennai to Bangalore on the Bangalore Mail. The ticket cost `230 before the hike, and the new price would be `265. This means the TTE would have to collect `35 from each of the 72 passengers in a coach. If some do not have change, the TTE would have no option but to forego `5. Also, think of how many passengers may not have change.
This time, however, the TTEs seem to have a more positive outlook to the torrid problem. “This should not be a problem this time, as the hike is substantial. We are more likely to have a problem with smaller numbers,” said a senior TTE at Chennai Central.
There are presently about 900 TTEs in the Chennai Division, and they will be getting a helping hand with the excess fare collection from around 60 TTEs from the Chennai Suburban system. However, the TTEs took the opportunity to complain that they were understaffed by about 500 employees.
One of the TTEs had a somewhat simple suggestion to ensure that things were easier for them the next time a rail fare hike is announced. “The hike can be imposed for tickets booked from the date the increase is announced, instead of tickets booked two months in advance,” the official said.
Three special counters - two at Chennai Central and one at Chennai Egmore - will be set up from Wednesday for passengers who wish to pay the excess fare. More TTEs will be deputed especially to collect the excess fare from passengers for the next two months.