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Cashless, touch-free Delhi metro on roll

Shivam Pathak

Spurred on by the pandemic, the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) has decided to introduce Quick Response (QR) codes and other digital payment-based systems on its network to make ticketing contactless. The Metro has invited Expression of Interest from private firms to upgrade its existing Automatic Fare Collection (AFC) system to enable QR code, bank account and RuPay based ticketing on its network.

Currently, the QR code-based ticketing system is available only on Delhi Metro’s airport express line. The tickets on the airport express line are issued using a mobile application and the commuters have to scan the QR code ticket, which is sent on the user’s mobile phone, at the AFC gate at the station. Apart from the QR code facility, the airport Metro also allows the use of National Common Mobility Card (NCMC), which was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in December last year.

In the QR code system, users have to register on the mobile application, Ridlr, using mobile number and email ID and buy QR tickets by selecting the starting point, the destination station and the number of passengers who will travel. At a time, a maximum of six tickets can be purchased. Metro users can use their credit or debit card (new cards which have NCMC facility) while travelling on Metro’s airport express.

The Metro now plans to make the QR code system available on its nine corridors, spread over 314 kilometres, and 245 stations by 2022. DMRC official said that this is being done following the National Common Mobility Card standard model specified by the Union housing and urban affairs ministry. The DMRC’s average daily ridership is 2.86 million and it served 100 crore riders in the financial year 2019-20.

Anuj Dayal, executive director, corporate communication, DMRC, said, “DMRC has invited expression of interest for implementation of QR code, EMV (enabled Account Based Ticketing (Master/VISA), and RuPay based ticketing.”

The expression of interest also includes upgrading and maintenance of the existing AFC technology. Currently, Metro users have to swipe the Metro travel card or token against the AFC gates to gain entry.

DMRC officials said that the entry AFC system on all corridors developed in Phase I, II and III will have to be upgraded. “There is a need for comprehensive maintenance of the AFC system of our Phase I, II and III stations. The existing AFC technology and infrastructure (hardware and software) needs to be updated. The key dates for delivery and commissioning will be detailed out in the Request for Proposal document,” said Dayal.

As per the expression of interest document, the work will be awarded for a period of almost 11.5 years, including five years of operation and maintenance, from date of commencement.

While DMRC has been planning to upgrade its ticketing system to become cashless for a while, the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic has now only made the need for such technology a necessity.

The NCMC will allow passengers with RuPay debit cards, issued in the last 20 months by nearly 23 banks, to be swiped for Metro travel.” It is currently available only on the Airport Express line. The NCMC will enable seamless travel across public transport modes in the country besides shopping and purchases, said the official.

Metro services were closed for a period of 169 days last year due to the pandemic. The Centre had allowed Metro operations to resume in September but in a graded manner and with social distancing inside trains and on stations. As part of preventive measures, the DMRC has stopped the sale of tokens at its counters on Metro stations. Currently, metro users have to use DMRC’s travel card while commuting. While Metro trains continue to operate on 50% occupancy, transport and health experts say, contactless ticketing will have long term benefits for different reasons.

Sewa Ram, professor of transport planning at the School of Planning and Architecture, said, “This is a good move. In the next few years, there will be different modes of transportation — such as RRTS — will be available. While infrastructure integration is already being done by various agencies to provide seamless travel to commuters, common mobility card will be an added benefit. In the long run it will help in collecting data about passenger movement which will prove beneficial in improving the public transport services. But this facility should also be extended to feeder system.”

Public health experts say that while the vaccine will soon be available for the public at large, people will have to continue to observe social distancing, hand hygiene and other basic precautions. Dr Jugal Kishore, head of the department community medicine, Safdarjung hospital, said, “QR code ticketing will help in ensuring public safety. But hygiene in public transport and other preventive measure should continue.”

 

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