Ever since Indian Railways launched their online booking service via IRCTC’s website www.irctc.co.in, I stopped going to the railway station for booking tickets.
This website is great! Initially, they did not have the concept of e-tickets. They just had i-tickets, which are booked online but are delivered to the customer by post and look just like regular train tickets. But still they’re an improvement, in that if someone finds them, he can’t go to the station, cancel them and get a cash refund. Here, the money is refunded to the card or account from which it was booked.
Then, of course, they started e-tickets as well. These are great. They can be booked AND cancelled online. And of course, carrying a printout of the online booking confirmation (called ERS) is enough.
The website has been improving continuously over time. In between, they also changed the look and made it a bit more stylish. It is very easy and straightforward to book tickets here. Just enter the origin and destination, select the date and class and the site shows the list of trains on that route. You can see the route map, ticket availability, fare, etc. before booking it.
Tatkal booking can also be done online now, which is great and very useful! But for Tatkal booking, they should insist on some identification, to prevent mass bookings by travel agents.
There are numerous payment options, be it credit card, debit card or net banking. There is no dearth of choice here, which is great! But there are transaction fees levied by the payment gateways, which is silly. No other travel website does that.
There is also a ‘Booked tickets’ section where you can see the booking history. If there is a problem during online payment, you can check here to see if the booking was done or not. Initially there used to be occasional failures during payment but all that has been taken care of now. But try to avoid ICICI Bank payment gateway as far as possible. Citibank gateway is the fastest and best, from my experience.
There also used to be a lot of sudden temporary downtime initially, where the site would go down for short periods of time several times a day. But nowadays it has improved on that significantly.
Customer care is decent, just had to use it once. It’s ok.
Now for the problems:
– They should add an option for one-way and round-trip booking. Right now we need to repeat the process for round-trip bookings.
– The option for selecting class should be removed. The booking form should show all trains between origin and destination on the given date, and all classes (Sleeper, AC 3 tier, AC 2 tier, etc.) supported on that train should be shown alongside the train itself. Right now, we need to repeat the search with a different class, if the earlier chosen class is full or not available on that train.
– Bookings can be done only between 5 AM and 11.30 PM, which is fine most of the time, but doesn’t make sense in today’s age. On any other travel website, bus or air tickets can be booked round the clock. I don’t know what is stopping IRCTC from doing the same?
– As said earlier, they should insist on some identification for Tatkal tickets, to prevent mass bookings by travel agents.
– They should add a toll-free 24 hours customer support number. The current number is a regular MTNL landline number based in Delhi, so we are charged at STD rates for calling them.
– Profile can be edited but does not allow you to change your name! I think that’s very silly. I haven’t seen any site not allowing you to update your name, at least indirectly (by mailing them). It doens’t make any sense at all. In my case, I changed my name legally via an affidavit a few years back, but this site doesn’t allow me to update my name. I mailed customer care but they also said that the name cannot be changed, and asked me to create a new account!
But all in all, great job done by Indian Railways! Keep it up!