Eh! Does the title of this post sound a bit exaggerated in terms of the statement it is trying to make? But, probably, that might NOT be too unrealistic a target for the Indian Railways (IR) to achieve with the reach of its web portal spreading day-by-day and users getting increasingly net-savvy.
For once, even if I lack data connectivity at my premises, I would still prefer to book my ticket online by reaching out at nearby cyber café, rather than waiting for my turn in long serpentine queue at Mumbai CST’s railway reservation office or pleading with some authorized agent to book my requisite ticket.
Well, this certainly spells doom for agents involved in the trade of passenger ticketing system – at least a gradual death, is not an instant one. For agents offering online ticketing services, there’s all the more reason to shut their shops. Here’s why:
Indian Railways is reportedly set to roll-out its own e-ticketing service which contemplates to sideline transactions from travel agents and commercial organizations, in a bid to promote interest of individual users to book hassle free tickets on its web portal – www.indianrailways.gov.in.
On the other hand, IRCTC still allows travel agents to book tickets through its portal; just that it has barred them from booking tatkal tickets during the peak hours to check malpractices by agents cornering reserved tickets and easing early morning web traffic.
IRCTC has been credited for revolutionizing the face of railways ticketing in India, though it has been fraught with complaints more recently. However, a question that often hunts my mind is – with IRCTC being a subsidiary of the Indian Railways that handles online ticketing operations amongst other services, what the need is for two ticketing portals run by the same public organization?
More recently, IRCTC had blocked over 4.6 lakh user IDs to curb malpractices in train reservations and enhanced its cyber surveillance against tickets that were procured through software which gave undue advantages to agents and distributors.
But, my personal experience with IRCTC web service shows that the site fared very poorly in terms of speed from 8 a.m. to 8.30 a.m. – the initial half hour, to say the least. Furthermore, IRCTC charges Rs.10 per ticket for SL and Rs.20 per ticket for higher classes, whereas IR portal intends to levy half the aforementioned service charges for tickets booked through its portal.
While IRCTC allows individuals to book a maximum of two bookings in a day and 10 tickets in a month through a single user ID, IR’s new e-ticketing service would allow a maximum of 8 transactions per month initially.
For all those mobile internet users out there, IR is also putting on offer a mobile platform for booking online tickets for the individual users through a mobile ticketing application for the convenience of the travelers.
Lastly, a query in my mind – is Indian Railways trying to phase out agents from the system? If yes, can IR’s web portal make inroads into monopoly service of IRCTC’s cum-agent ticket booking system?
With this, I take your leave with above tough question to be answered by you :)