An Overview of Reservations and Ticketing in the Indian Railways
The Indian Railways run an astonishing 13,000 passenger trains on a daily basis. While this may seem an incredibly large number, with a population of over 1.3 billion people, it accounts for less than 0.001% of the population. In the grand scheme of things, it isn’t much. Trains are undoubtedly the cheapest mode of transport in India. It caters to people of all classes and is the perfect way to get from one part of the country to another. With 7349 stations across India, even the most remote place is connected via rail.
Why must tickets be reserved while travelling by train?
Since 2% of the population is traveling by train every single day, the amount of volume handled is very high. Finding seats in the unreserved section during peak times of the year is impossible. Booking must be made as much as two months in advance in specific scenarios. In the year from March 2017 to March 2018, 8.26 billion passengers travelled by train. To have a chance of getting a seat on any of these trains, one must book it well in advance.
Booking a ticket
Since a large number of tickets are reserved every day, a facility known as the waiting list was introduced by the Indian Railways. They observed that a large number of tickets used to get cancelled at the last minute, and would cause losses and inefficiency. A simple solution was to implement the concept of a waiting list, wherein one is not confirmed a seat immediately, but is put in a queue in case cancellations are made. If enough number of cancellations isn’t made, and someone on the waiting list is not allotted a seat, the money is refunded.
Seat availability on trains
Due to a large number of reservations, people within 30 tickets on the waiting list almost always will be able to catch a seat. To know train availability, a multitude of websites are available online. By entering the details, such as the train number, destination and originating station, class and journey date, you will get to know the seats that are available on that particular train.
A particular type of reservation, known as the Tatkal Scheme is also available on the Indian Railways. It was introduced to book journeys at very short notice. It can be done both offline and online.
Tatkal: The Tatkal ticket booking opens at 10 AM for air-conditioned coaches and 11 AM for sleeper coaches on the day prior to the journey. In the peak season, more than 80% of the Tatkal tickets are utilized. The unsold Tatkal tickets are released to those on the waiting list, thus ensuring that trains run to their maximum capacity.
Premium Tatkal: There is also something known as Premium Tatkal, with prices the double of the standard Tatkal ticket. Premium Tatkal tickets, however, can only be purchased online.
The system introduced by the Indian Railways is simple and straightforward. With internet connectivity reaching even the most remote areas of the country, online reservations are becoming the go-to for people across India.