A friend once narrated me the following tale.
Once he, along with some friends, had a plan to go to Dehradun in his summer vacations and he reached the Lucknow Railway Station to buy tickets. The queue was very long, consisting of more than a hundred people. There were three or four booking counters but all had somewhat the same queue length. Also the booking clerk was giving tickets to those who were approaching him directly without following the queue, perhaps because they were his friends. His turn arrived after about 1.5 hours and the two trains which he wanted to board had long left the station by then. He got tickets of the next train which was supposed to come after two hours or so. The waiting room was full so they had no choice but to wait on the platform.
This is just one example of what passes on, on Indian Railway Stations and this is the reason why many people book their tickets online.
Irctc.co.in is the official website of Indian Railways’ ticketing service. IRCTC stands for Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation. But there are certain serious drawbacks of the website.
Firstly the website is not a well designed one and so the first time users can face a lot of problems in navigating through it. They don’t have any blog or help forum where users can discuss any problems that they are facing. As you can see from the screenshot above, about half of the website is crawling with AdSense ads – a big clutter and distraction for browsers. They don’t even have a social media presence so you will manually have to visit the website in order to stay updated with the latest happenings.
Their web presence does not imply that you can book tickets 24 X 7. Earlier they didn’t allow booking from 11:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. but now they have changed it from 11:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. Still kind of annoying. Besides that is just a theoretical rule, you can still check train schedules(www.trainenquiry.com) or route maps or pnr status any time irrespective of these timings. Practically what happens is that their servers usually give in when high traffic i.e. a lot of people visit the website. You may have to face slow or no connectivity when you wish to buy a ticket through them.
Another problem is that tickets can sell off quickly. A seat which was available at 5:10 p.m. may not be available when you finish with the filling in of their form at 5:20 p.m.
To help you out I’m pointing you to some useful resources below.
Labnol.org- This is basically a technology website by Mr. Amit Agarwal. The website does not specifically target Indian Railways but Mr. Agarwal has written quite a few articles about them. One such example is the article Improve your Chances of Getting a Train Ticket on the IRCTC Website. Mr.Agarwal has designed a device which lets you book tickets very quickly.
It is not as trivial as it may sound. There is a very tough competition in getting your ticket booked. Thousands of people are eager to get that seat on which you have an eye. The IRCTC website opens up for reservations at 8 a.m. By the time you fill the form it’s 8:10 a.m. and you may find that the seat is gone – booked by someone else.
To give you an edge over others, Mr.Agarwal has designed that tool. You have to visit this page and fill in your details just ten minutes before 8 a.m. Then click on the “I’m feeling lucky button.” Then a Magic Autofill button will be generated which you’ll have to drag to your bookmarks tool. Then when IRCTC opens for reservations just click the bookmark and the form will be filled automatically with all the details you had entered. See why we call it Magic Autofill?
Erail.in – This is a very good website for information on trains. It provides richer, more detailed information on trains than the IRCTC website. For example when you enter the two stations between which you want to travel it will generate the complete list of trains for the complete week. IRCTC’s website, on the other hand, generates only a particular day’s list and you have to manually go and search for different dates which can be frustrating.
Railroadair.blogspot.in – This is a blog by Erail.in which features the latest happenings in Indian Railways. For example summers are approaching and schools are about to get closed for summer vacations. Children, along with their parents, will be going on holidays to different places. The blog reports that the government has decided to run some new special trains between Hyderabad and Kolhapur to accommodate the increased number of passengers. So you see following this blog will keep you updated with the latest news of Indian railways.
I hope you found this article useful. Do leave a comment below letting me know what you think.