Indian Railways

02 August 2007
Indian ticket insurance
Patrick Crozier

Oh come on this is straight forward enough.  It’s insurance against train cancellations in India, isn’t it?  Not quite:

“My favourite ticketing system was in Mumbai, India,” Kim enthuses. “No one actually buys a ticket, but you can buy ‘ticket insurance’ from private entrepreneurs who work at the entrance of the station.  The ‘ticket insurance’ is about half the price of a regular rail ticket.  It gives you a guarantee that, in the extraordinary event that you are booked by a railways inspector for taking a free ride, your fine will be paid.  A relative was once booked and the ticket insurer paid the fine exactly as promised.”

From the Sydney Morning Herald (Hat-tip: Marginal Revolution)

17 May 2007
The obvious answer
Brian Micklethwait

As Amit Varma says, you’ve got to love a headline that goes “Train passengers asked to get out and push”:

Hundreds of Indian rail passengers got more than they had bargained for when the driver of their train asked them to get out and push.

It took more than half an hour to move the stalled electric train 12 feet so that it touched live overhead wires and was able to resume its journey, officials said on Wednesday.

The incident occurred in the eastern state of Bihar on Tuesday after a passenger pulled the train’s emergency chain and it halted in a “neutral zone,” a short length of track where there is no power in the overhead wires.

Which is all perfectly logical.  This could happen to any train operator.  They did exactly the right thing in asking the passengers to assist.

Here in England, if anything similar occurred, the passengers would have been delayed for far longer.  That’s because India is now a self-help we-can-do-it society, while England is now a what-are-they-going-to-do-about-it? safety-worshipping society.