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The State Of Railway e-Ticketing In India

I am a regular user of the Indian Railways e-ticketing system. I use it almost every month to book tickets from my college to home. There is only one train from my college to home, so I never noticed all that is wrong with the ticketing system. Recently, the train which I usually travel by was already fully booked, so I had to look for alternative routes. I spent two hours on the IRCTC website and even after that I hadn't booked any tickets. I felt frustrated beyond measure. Then I started thinking about all the faults of the system and boy did I get a long list? Have a look.

To book the tickets, you have to enter source station, destination station, journey date, quota etc. Fine. Now when you click on 'Find Trains', it presents you with a long list of trains from the source station to the destination station. There is no information whether the trains have any seats available or not. To find that out you have to click individually on each train, not only that you have to click individually on every class of the train. Every. Single. Class. For. Every. Single. Train.

It presents you with even those trains which have already departed (We can obviously do time travel to the past.)

If you want to go between stations which have no direct trains connecting them, then you are in for a real ordeal. You will get an error that there are no trains between these stations. No alternative routes are shown, nothing. So what to do now? Well, look at India's map, mark the source and destination stations, then make a list of all the 'big' stations between them. Now try looking for trains from source station to one of these stations and then from these stations to your destination. Pro tip: If this doesn't work out, try this - from source to intermediate 1, from there to intermediate 2, from there to your destination. (You obviously have infinite free time. Besides, doing such mundane tasks is sooo satisfying. And the winning feeling you get after finally figuring out the route, there is nothing better than that! That's why these people didn't incorporate this functionality into the system.)

So now you have figured out the route, Great! Let's say your route has two stops. This means you have to book three tickets separately. You cannot book tickets for more than one train at one go, you just can't. This means entering all the details again. This also means that you will be charged service charge three times.

While we are at it let's talk about service charge. What about it? It is kind of a convenience charge. Hey, you are booking tickets from the convenience of your home, you should be charged for that. Right?

Wrong. You are helping to reduce the length of queues at the ticket windows, you are doing the work which is done by clerks there. If anything you should be given discounts for that. I am pretty sure that if there are discounts on e-tickets, the average queue in front of reservation windows would significantly drop in length.

Every day from 23:30 to 0:30 the server is down for maintenance. Seriously, every day? Their server needs maintenance every fucking day? Which technology are they using?

Oh and let's talk about speed, every operation on the site takes a gazillion seconds to complete. You can be on the world's fastest connection but if you have their site open it looks like you are on dial-up.

This was about the IRCTC site, don't even get me started about www.indianrail.gov.in. Compared to that the IRCTC site looks like it is powered by the world's most cutting edge technology. And that is saying something.

This concludes my rant. I am feeling better now. I will feel much better when the state of the system improves.

--Written while sitting along with three more people on a single berth.


Update: Interesting discussion about this on Hacker News - http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3180015

21 comments:

  1. boy did I got a long list? .....seriously???? improve your grammar

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  2. Man that's some serious rant to do...
    Try erail its much better.
    and seriously 'every fucking day' was just awesome...

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  3. u looked deep into the system...bt i still feel..its just a waste of tym...therz nthng we cn do to improve this....and this post of urs jst showed ur sheer joblessness!!! bro,indian railwaz unlike indian roadwaz/cab services has got a site is far mor satisfyng!! aint it??

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  4. @Aayush thanks!

    @Anonymous It's not a waste of time for many reason, I was on a train while writing most of the post (I consider this time well utilized), also as part of a course I am doing we are supposed to write use cases and user stories for different real world systems - so this is course work in some sense. ;-) (Hey sir, extra credit?)

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  5. Haven't used IRCTC much but would suggest to try out cleartrip or make my trip. They have convenient interface and present multiple optios....

    Happy Ticketing...
    Umesh mishra

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  6. @Umesh Jiju I will try those next time... thanks :-)

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  7. Try cleartrip (disclaimer: I just like them. I don't work for them.)
    It is a shame they still have to use the railways' dated backend, but what they've managed to do on top of that I very much appreciate.

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  8. Inconceivable. I read that Lalu had completely fixed Indian Railways!

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  9. What else did you expect from a catering company? BTW the convenience charge is actually a luxury charge (a Poor man stands in a queue for hours to book a ticket, remember)

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  10. Heading to India tonight on a holiday. Looking forward to this and more Indian bureaucracy!

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  11. Try http://erail.in/ , It addresses some of the problems. If there is no direct trains it breaks the journey with an intermediate station. I find it's faster than irctc.in.

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  12. You should really check out http://indiarailinfo.com/ which is a community maintained site its got a great interface is pretty fast

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  13. I think before writing a rant about anything, you should ask yourself whether you are fit enough to write it. Let me get this straight. Steve Yegge or Zed Shaw can a big fucking rant. You know why? 'Cause people actually do give a shit about what they think or write. Your github profile shows 0 repos and 0 followers. You complain about the Indian Railways system. But given the chance would you able to fix it?

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  14. +1 for clear trip. They have a rad mobile website!

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  15. @Comment10 IRCTC is not just a catering company, it is the official e-ticket provider of the Indian Railways.

    @Comment14 You don't need to be a cook to tell that the food is bad.

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  16. Of course there is something you can do. Create a web site that works how you expect it to, it would behind the scenes scrape the crappy official site (i.e diving into each train/class) and aggregating the results..

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  17. Scraping their site is against their TOS and illegal.

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  18. I think Some1 did mention erail.in ... you use that :)

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  19. @Rohit
    Convenience charge: IRCTC is not a part of Indian Railways per se. CRIS is. IRCTC is a separate entity. They need to levy service charges to survive.

    Technology: CRIS core network was designed in late 1980's. On OpenVMS using C/Fortran etc. It has been largely untouched ever since. The midnight downtime you complain about, is I guess because of its pre-internet era nature and the design decisions and best practices of that time. The CRIS network consists of separate zones, which probably need maintenance, syncing and backups every night.

    Website performance, outages are irritating though. I'm sure they need people to work for them. I trust you would interview with IRCTC and solve these problems for the rest of us.

    @Kumar They have no choice. IRCTC is the sole provider of train booking APIs. So its kind of take it or leave it.

    Disclaimer: I worked on cleartrip trains product.

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    Replies
    1. Are you sure about the whole OpenVMS.. mainframe thing?
      because according to RedHat IRCTC is using their solution.
      more info at http://www.redhat.com/resourcelibrary/case-studies/irctc-relies-on-red-hat

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