'Mystery shoppers' to MADAD: How Railways is trying to make travel smoother

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Remember the viral video of railway vendors filling tea and coffee cans from inside a train toilet? The going is set to get much tougher for such unscrupulous service providers, as the Indian Railways brings in a new method of ensuring that quality standards are maintained. 

The Railways will send what appears to be an inspection team, called "mystery shoppers", across the country to take stock of the services, reported the Indian Express. Members of this team will pose as regular passengers. They will take note of the food, quality of trains and stations, staff behaviour and other amenities across various classes. 

According to the national daily, the team will report is findings to the Railways, which will take follow-up actions as needed. The Railway Board is giving the finishing touches to the new policy. 

The first-of-its-kind move in the country comes at a time when the Railways is trying various things to improve passenger experience and make travel easier.  

1) Indian Railways Menu on Rail app: If you have been overcharged for food on trains, the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) has come up with a new app to help you. You can check the maximum retail price (MRP) of food items on 'Menu on Rail'. This app is available on both Android and ioS platforms. 

2) Indian Railways complaint lodging app: The Railways on Monday launched a new mobile application to make travelling experience far more pleasant. The app, 'Rail MADAD', will enable travellers to lodge complaints.  

The dedicated mobile app will fast-track the entire process of registration and redressal of grievances, be it over food quality or dirty toilets. They can also request emergency services through the app. Complaints lodged through the app will directly reach the relevant officials of the divisions concerned and the intimation that action has been taken can be relayed online.  

Passengers will also be able to track the status of their complaints. The app integrates all passenger grievances and redressal mechanisms.  

3) Indian Railways app for unreserved tickets: The Railways has introduced a mobile application that enables the booking and cancellation of unreserved tickets. Further, the app will enable the issuance and renewal of season and platform tickets, checking and the loading of R-wallet balance. It will also help maintain user profile management and booking history.   

The UTS on mobile application is available for Android and Windows smartphones. Users can download this app from Google Play Store or Windows store free of cost. 

4) Safety of female passengers takes centre stage: For strengthening the security of women passengers, the North Eastern Railway has planned to deploy women police personnel on trains during night hours as well as installing 'panic buttons' in coaches.    

In May, reports highlighted plans to deploy women police personnel in sub-urban trains during night hours, besides the recruitment of women in the Railway Protection Force. 

Railways has also proposed different-coloured coaches for women for easy identification and wire mesh in windows of such coaches. Earlier this year, the it ensured that coaches reserved for women in trains would be placed in the centre of trains instead of their rear end and that they would be painted pink for identification. 

The North-Eastern Railways also intends to install CCTV cameras in women coaches of sub-urban trains with live feed, CCTV cameras on platforms to cover ladies' coaches during stopovers of trains, the amendment in the Railways Act to ensure enhanced punishment for offences pertaining to women. 

5) Predicting if wait-listed tickets will get confirmed: Now, you can find out if your train ticket stands a chance of being confirmed or not, thanks to a new predictive service on the IRCTC website. The new and refurbished IRCTC website lets Indian Railways passengers know the probability of the confirmation of wait-listed tickets based on a new algorithm developed by the Centre for Railway Information Systems (CRIS).