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Booking of e-tickets on Indian Railways spirals!

February 21, 2007

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!

If you want to check out the railway site go here. If you want to check out the railway time-table you can go here.

Related Reading: The 90 advance ticket reservation system a bad idea
Railways are making profits at the cost of consumers

18 Comments leave one →
  1. February 21, 2007 12:02 pm

    Hey Nita,

    Online Booking is a great convenience. But as you rightly pointed out that the system crashes too often.

    Also i had a very recent xp about the system discrepencies – as you are aware we can book i-ticket as well as e-ticket.The procedure for both being the same just the delivery is different.

    But in case of cancelletion, e-ticket is a bit wierd as you cannot cancell the person’s ticket who has booked even of others on the ticket are travelling.

    a bit wierd…but happens in india 🙂

  2. February 21, 2007 1:01 pm

    I didn’t know about this cancellation hitch. Thanks for warning me!

  3. February 21, 2007 2:13 pm

    This is the blog I will read from now on. Nice one.

  4. February 21, 2007 7:08 pm

    Obviously the railway system, even if it has glitches, is alive in India. Our railway system in Canada is virtually non-existent and very expensive. For a country as big as Canada, this is a shame. One thing though, we do not have touts, or scalpers as they are called here, to buy up blocks of tickets – that is reserved for concerts and sporting events. Very few people use the rail system here, with the exception of commuter trains which are affordable and rarely crowded as we are a people completely besotted with our cars and the freedom of movement that car driving confers. I can only begin to imagine the frustrations expereienced in India with arriving at a train station in ample time to purchase tickets and finding oneself unable to do so.

  5. February 22, 2007 5:41 am

    Here it is a common practice to book railway tickets in advance. This is because it is a question of supply and demand. During holiday season for example, train tickets get booked more than a month in advance. In India the roads being what they are, people prefer to travel by train rather than road, specially long distances.
    I am sure that in Canada the railways are not used much and therefore given less importance.
    Also only a certain section of society here own their own cars. So buses and trains are the only means of transport for them.

  6. February 23, 2007 8:44 am

    It used to be slow even 3 yrs back. I don’t want to crib, but can’t hold myself back. Constricted supply is everywhere and has made it to virtual experiences too. Why haven’t they monitored and improved the website speed and user experience? Iam sure the % reported would have been atleast 1 % more if the user experience is better. Constricted supply in my opinion is a big factor of many a problem in India. Just to see how widespread this is, we can take the ex of procurement of farmer produce. Its these constricted supply lines, choking roads (which simply do not scale to our population levels) that make the quality of life worser in India.

  7. March 17, 2007 8:06 pm

    I have been using online reservations on railways for over three years now. One thing I have noticed is that even though many government agencies come out with such online tools. They are absolutely poorly managed and pathetically designed and the programmed output is very inferior quality.

    Why is it that anything that the Indian Government does lacks quality? Coming back to the point the online reservation tool ( is downright the best example of poor design and usability. I wonder how much the government paid to get this project completed. Even the most basic rudiments of software development seem to be missing from it.

    If the government is ready to outsource this. I would be willing to provide consultancy on this for free.

  8. Jinan permalink
    April 2, 2007 7:38 am

    Hey Nita, I am coming India after almost 2 yrs. When I left, I was able to reserve my ticket any time…I’m coming exactly after 2 months…and I have deeeeeeep wish 2 travel through shatabi express (mumbai-baroda)…but My dad sayin tht 90 days prior reservation rule…and I also got that frm ur informative article…..Now…What is the other option for reservation…exceptin national flights?

    any way I can get shatabdi reservation in this week ….my traveling date gona be exactly 31st may morning time…frm mumbai to ahd …shatabdi train….It will feel me bad if i don’t make my trip through shatabdi just cause of this rule:(….if any way the reservation of shatabdi not gonaa possible..i will go for flight jet airways…but i wish i could make the end in shatabdi:(……plzz reply soon….here or on my mail id….i will be thankful 2 u for ur valuable time and information….

  9. April 2, 2007 8:24 am

    Jinan, if there are tickets available you will get your Shatabdi reservation. Book as soon as possible, even if it is a waiting period ticket. Because of the 3month advance reservation policy, you will get many cancellations in the last month before the journey, and it is very likely that you will get your confirmed ticket on the date you want. So book quickly!

  10. Dineshbaranwal permalink
    April 10, 2007 2:04 pm

    I would like to travel by Chauri chaura express to Madhosingh from Gorakhpur Train Number 5004. Please whether A/C 3 ticket can be booked for April 15, 2007. What is oficial website for e-ticket booking and how we can create account and pass-word.

  11. April 10, 2007 4:50 pm

    Mr.Baranwal, I have given the railway booking site in my post. YOu can make your user account on that site. If you are not familiar with the net, you can ask a friend or colleague to help you.

  12. arondekar permalink
    June 16, 2007 12:39 pm

    not surprising that laloo brought railwayin profit and one of the innovative factor is 90 days reservation in advance. this not only brought interest free huge funds running in crores of rupees throught india to the railways for 90 days but also gave a lot of money through cancellations of tickets as chances of cancellations are more since period of reservation is longer.

  13. Sanjeev permalink
    June 17, 2007 11:41 pm

    this is very good.

  14. January 5, 2008 5:28 pm


    I have tried to print e-ticket. But half of the ticket only coming. If any body know how to get print of full ticket pls explain…

    I have tried many options as i was a IT person.


  15. January 5, 2008 8:48 pm

    I think you should check your internet connection, printer etc. Half ticket doesn’t come, the complete one comes. Perhaps you should try it somewhere else, with a broadband connection.

  16. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    January 6, 2008 11:11 am


    //…the frustrations expereienced in India with arriving at a train station in ample time to purchase tickets and finding oneself unable to do so…//

    There is always ample time to buy UNRESERVED tickets, queues or no queues (unless you land up two minutes before departure). The thing is, with trains being so crowded, it is imperative to have a reservation, otherwise it is nearly impossible to get aboard (in any class), let alone finding a place to sit, or even stand. Reservations have to be done days in advance — on busy routes, and for journeys during the vacation season, it has to be weeks in advance.

    With the highway system rapidly developing, cars are of course an alternative that more and more people are opting for, but it is merely shifting the problem from one mode of travel to another. And the economic as well as environmental costs are simply too high. For a country as large and populous as India, train is the best option — in some cases even more than air.

  17. January 24, 2008 9:16 pm

    It’s almost a year since you wrote this post and nothing’s changed in the site since then. The infamous communication error still haunts us. If anything, more frequently. These days I’ve started going to the counter to book my tickets for the holidays. The counter opens at 8 am, I’m there at 7 am and there’s already a 100 people waiting…

    …I really wish there was a way out!

  18. March 8, 2008 7:25 pm

    well the best is to book tickets at churchgate or bigger stations by some woman or senior citizen after going to the site and chkg availabilities

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