Tuesday, May 23, 2006

IRCTC.com : Is it really hassle free railway ticketing

Most net savvy Indian’s uses or have used this online ticketing site of Indian Railway, called the www.irctc.com at some point of time. It is real time ticketing from the comfort of your home oroffice for which you pay a very small fee. It has gone more innovative with the print and travel facility introduced some time last year. I have been using it for last 2 years. It has been a good experience as the service was very useful and professional, a deviation from any government service. It has changed the way educated Indians travel and eliminated the ticket agents / touts at the railway reservation centers. I remember that there used to be a horde of them in both the New Delhi and the Old Delhi stations when we were studying and the railways did not have a full fledged networked ticketing system. But unfortunately this has not changed Indian Railway, or some its corrupt officials who had found a way out. Here is what I had to share.

All of you must be aware that Indian Railway had changed the Tatkal system few months back. Tatkal is a system whereby one can book tickets for journeys planned at a short notice. Tickets are available only from originating station to the destination station of a train by paying a decent premium. Earlier Tatkal quota tickets used to open 3 days prior to journey date, and tickets could be purchased only in person from the station by producing identity proof. Now Tatkal quota tickets opens 5 days before journey. This change itself is not bad. But they had also done away with the requirement of producing identity proof for tatkal tickets. This is where the loophole has been created, probably deliberately. The requirement of identity proof ensured that only the person who would be traveling has to purchase the ticket himself. Agents could not book tickets under this quota. On 22/05/2006, I logged onto the irctc site at 9 am to book tatkal ticket for going home on 27/05/2006. I was shocked to find that in less than an hour all tickets in any class (2AC/3AC/SL) in all the trains were already booked. The total no. of tatkal on these seats was at least 240. Left with no option, I had to try today. So I got up today early in the morning and remained logged on before 8 am. A bigger shock was awaiting me. The online system does not allow takal ticketing online before 8 am of the day it opens. The reason is that it is made available alogwith counter opening of reservation counters across the country. The moment the railway server clocked ticked 8, I was allowed in. I choose the tatkal ticket for Guwahati Rajdhani in 3 AC class. It took less than 2 minutes for me to fill in the data as I had used already prepared master passenger list. To my utter disbelief the system showed quota already exhausted. I was at a loss in shock for a moment. I came back and tried booking for North East Express. Again the same result. By any sort of imagination, no one can book 96 seats across India in less than 2 min. We all have been victims of the sloth like speed of the Railway ticket clerks at counters. Further, people across India for some reason should be trying to go to Guwahati on 28th May. Also all those people standing at no.1 in the Q in ticket counters should be trying to go to Guwahati on 28th. I had decided to use irctc to exclude the possibility of not standing at no.1 in Q at ticket counters. The real time online system is supposed to keep me at no.1 in the Q from the comfort of home. Only 4 minutes have passed by now. Finally I managed tickets in Sleeper Class. I felt lucky.

Now, let me tell what probably has happened. The Rajdhani and the NE Express to Guwahati always remains full. At any point of time tickets are not available in AC classes for at least next 30 days. To exploit this rush for tickets, some railway officials have in probability colluded with some agents. The tatkal tickets are blocked in the back end (server level manipulation) even before they are to open for sale, may be in fictious names and made available to the agents. The loophole exploited here is the non-requirement of identity proof. No other logic can explain the vanishing of at least 100 AC class seats in less than 2 min. This is not so in routes where there is no such rush or overbooking. I had done tatkal ticketing several times through irctc.com for travelling between Delhi and Dehradun. Honestly speaking, irctc.com provided a hassle free ticketing experience. But for some bad elements its quality of service will come down and also its fullest potential will not be utilised. I had an experience to remember.


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Dhruv Patel said...

Nice article. IRCTC is really providing good service. I would like to add some more contents in your article. I was also looking for TATKAL reservation from Bangalore to Mahesana(Gujarat). The particular day which I was looking for has only one train JODHPUR EXPRESS. And as you said in just two minutes after 8:00AM it showed me NOT AVAILABLE status for all classes. I just wondered how that happened. I suspected that there might be some thing wrong with IRCTC website because there is no chance that all TATKAL quota gets reserved in just 2 minutes.I than asked one of my collegue in the company about how to book TATKAL quota on irctc website. He is knowing more because he is a frequent traveller and always doing reservation through IRCTC. After that I tried what he said and BINGO!! I got the available seats in all three classes(2A/3A/SL).

So Here is what actually happened.
I wanted to go to Mahesana from Bangalore. So I entered Bangalore as From and Mahesana as To stations. But in TATKAL there is a rule that you'll have to book tickets from train's departure station to it's final destination station. Bangalore is a departure station for JODHPUR EXPRESS but Mahesana is not a final destination station for it. So I just entered JODHPUR which is a final destination station for JODHPUR EXPRESS, as a To station and looked for tickets. Then only IRCTC come up with exact available seats. Actually IRCTC should show a some warning dialog box when some one enters intermediate stations for TATKAL booking.

I hope this will help other people like RUPS and me to book TATKAL reservation through IRCTC.

Thanks again RUPS for writing article on IRCTC.


Rups said...

Thanks Dhruv for the update. I was aware of this and have in fact tried for seats in Rajdhani for end-to-end stations. Still no seat. I am sure that there is some backdoor system which books seats in a clandestine way on the routes where there is heavy demand.
One more changes have taken place in Tatkal. Earlier there used to be 6 seats reserved in each coach for tatkal. Now that has been done away with. Tatkal has been dispensed with in some trains and no of seats increased in others. These are not publicized -- one of the many ticks of Lalu. Take for example the popular Mussorie express running between Delhi and Dehradun. There is no more Tatkal in that train. Instead the AC express between Delhi and Dehrdaun has 90 Tatkal seats. This train has only 6 coaches. However, the Tatkal fare is so high that the many seats goes empty except for peak summer season. If you want to avail Tatkal, then travel by the train railway or Lalu wants, not by your choice.

indumathy said...

hi rups,this is dr.indumathy. i need two tatkal tickets for new delhi to chennai on 2nd october. can u tell me what time ticket booking commences?