The Russian-owned South Caucasus Railways company promises that a newly introduced electronic system will enable those planning a trip to Georgia this summer to buy train tickets within a matter of minutes and avoid long queues at ticket offices typical of last year.
Meanwhile, the price of tickets themselves may go up, a company official said.
Still two years ago a special train service to Georgia, in particular to the Black Sea port of Batumi, was launched in Yerevan to meet the growing demand for this destination among local holidaymakers. Soon, the demand for the 19-hour trip increased dramatically, causing queues at ticket offices, while ticket sales were slow as the entire process was carried out manually, taking some 15-20 minutes to attend to one buyer. Besides, South Caucasus Railways CJSC then had signed contracts with travel agencies that were, too, given permission to sell tickets, which also would cause some inaccuracies in the entire process.
But specialists give assurances that a $160,000-worth automated system of ticket sales, Orion, which has been operating at the Yerevan train station since May 16, will reduce the time of customer service to as little as two minutes.
Armenian Transport and Communications Minister Manuk Vardanyan believes the system will significantly facilitate the service of passengers.
“This system introduced to avoid mistakes typical of last year will allow passengers to travel to Georgia, Batumi, without unnecessary trouble and loss of time [at ticket offices],” said the minister, adding that the next step will be the provision of an opportunity of online ticket purchases, which is likely to become available from June 15.
Monitors installed at train stations will inform passengers about seats available in trains as well as about the price of tickets, and full information about the ticket bought through the Orion system, including the passenger’s name and surname, etc., will be entered into a common database and will be visible on monitors.
According to South Caucasus Railways first deputy director Marat Khakov, the system will exclude long queues at ticket offices and repeated sales of one and the same ticket.
“This automated system fully excludes inaccuracies, which we used to have before,” said Khakov.
The system will be introduced at train stations in Yerevan, Gyumri, Vanadzor and Armavir. The Yerevan-Batumi-Yerevan daily train service will be available from June 15 to September 30, with an additional train operating in the same direction and back available on Mondays and Fridays.
The South Caucasus Railways company also informs potential customers that in connection with the introduction of the new system the ticket price will also include an insurance fee, which is 200 drams (about 55 cents) for the Yerevan-Batumi-Yerevan train and 250 drams ($0.65) for the Yerevan-Tbilisi-Yerevan train. If a passenger returns the tickets, the full insurance fee will be paid back.
As Yerevan-Batumi is an international route, the price of tickets is linked to the exchange rate of the Swiss franc and because of the recent changes in the franc rate, ticket prices are also likely to go up (one Swiss franc is now worth about 420 AMD, while last may it was about 337 AMD).
“The ticket fare is likely to go up by 2,000 drams (about $5),” said Khakov.
A Yerevan-Tbilisi train ticket, as mentioned on the company’s website, is priced between 4,280 drams (about $11.5) and 14,160 drams (about $38), depending on the type of car; the price of a Yerevan-Batumi train is between 7,500 drams (about $20) and 24,000 drams (about $64).
South Caucasus Railway CJSC is a Russian Railways OJSC subsidiary. In 2008 it gained the right for a 30-year concession management of Armenian Railways CJSC with a possible extension of this right for another 20 years.