Booking of e-tickets on Indian Railways spirals!
Yesterday I went online to book a railway ticket from Mumbai to Pune. I have done it scores of times before and the site was slow to load, but I was used to it. I tried again after a few hours. No luck. ‘Communication failure’ was the response. This was the first time I had got this message. I tried several times throughout the day but again, no luck, not even at night. Finally early this morning it went through. In the nick of time because just five tickets were left on the Intercity.
And this morning I read in the newspapers that Online Ticket Sales in Mumbai have jumped from 3 per cent to 10 per cent this year! The system had simply clogged. A quote:
On an average the Passenger Reservation System (PRS) in Mumbai issues 1.2 lakh tickets daily for long distance trains starting from Central Railway, Western Railway and Konkan Railway. Till last year, only 3 per cent of the total ticket sales were through the online booking system. However, the percentage has now shot up to almost ten per cent of sales, going by the latest figures.
Shailendra Kumar, the Chief commercial Manager (Passenger Marketing) has admitted that this changing trend had made it imperative to ‘increase traffic handling capacity of the railway website to ensure faster processing of tickets.’
Well, I hope they do so soon because for me (and it looks like thousands of others have discovered it too) this is the best way of booking railway tickets. The travel agents and touts to whom we traditionally entrust the booking are usually unreliable. In fact a lot of people prefer to go to the counters and do the booking themselves. But the queues are long. Entrusting this job to travel agents in my opinion is not a good idea either, as one has to make several calls to ensure that the job has been done. And after all this there is no guarantee that the ticket has been procured. At least online one can check the availibility instantly. No suspense.
The Indian Railways has done a good job of handling this sytem so far. As this Wiki entry says:
Within a short span of its going online, this site has become the largest and the fastest growing eCommerce website in Asia Pacific and the most transacted site in this part of the world.
The reason why this venture has been a huge success so far is because it of its simplicty. Its easy to use and the i-ticket arrives in 24 hours! It takes a few minutes to register at the site. Payment options are either through various banks or through credit cards. We prefer the bank option. The bank charges Rs 10/- per ticket and the railways charge about Rs 40 onwards depending on what ticket you are buying, first class or second class. Its not cheap specially if the ticket in question costs just Rs 200/- but it is very convinient and no tension. There is also an option of purchasing an e-ticket which you can print out in case you are not home to recieve the ticket.
A lot of people hesitate to use their credit cards for online purchases but railway officials insist that the transaction is safe as they use “a 128-bit encryption and no card number is stored on their database….even if somebody hacks into the system, he will get only your name and phone number.”
But what is the future? I would not like to repeat the experience I had yesterday. There have also been problems like the recent one when touts booked almost 600 tickets and those standing in line at ticket counters got nothing! Some people suspect this to be a scam which is going on with the connivance of railways officials. We are all familiar with the fact that railways tickets are available ‘in black’ at railway stations before the journey. These touts sell the tickets at a profit and their mass booking tends to deprive genuine passengers. Well, I just hope that this 10 per cent increase that the railway site is showing is not due to touts!