Sunday, June 1, 2008

Book train tickets through Bank ATM's

In Aug 2002, the entire train commuting community woke up to a great technological breakthrough. After almost 15 years of effort, a network of all databases were done. The result - This was the online train ticket booking facility. Since 2002 it is the most successful e-commerce website in India. It was announced by Nitish Kumar (the then railway minister in Vajpayee' government and now Bihar's chief Minister). Computerization was done in 1980's, but all were standalone and not networked. It took a mammoth effort to build a website and use high end efficient, robust servers at the back end. 15 years ago if one had to book a ticket from Bangalore to Delhi and say one had to get down at Station A in between to reach Delhi from there via another train, one had to book a fresh ticket again from Station A to Delhi. It was not possible to book direct ticket from Bangalore to Delhi from Bangalore. The servers were isolated. And now, you can sit in any part of the world, access and book tickets.

Owned by the government, the accuracy and service of this website is A-one or world class. The courier service of delivery of tickets, a call center to track down the courier and a wonderful, yet simple website to handle bookings and checking online status of orders, PNR look up are just to name a few of the features. It was developed by Broadvision. There are 3 layers of firewalls and advanced encryption of credit card numbers is done so that IRCTC guys don't know about it. So, far there has not been a single case of fraud reported (with fault or hacking on the server side) and hence is considered very safe. In order to ensure further safety issues, Verisign is being used.

The courier system which government tied up with Bluedart has been doing a fabulous job. On a personal note I once booked online and did not get the ticket through courier. I then called helpline number and then they immediately delivered. There is no doubt about the good professionalism on the delivery side.

Very recently, the government allowed to book even waiting list tickets. This is a very good move. And if your name doesn't appear on the reservation list, automatic refund will be done and one need not apply for cancellation online. This is too great!!!!

Now, in order to make IRCTC even more accessible to people, government has tied up with private companies by which cash cards can be got from a host of retail stores by paying money beforehand and use them to book tickets. This is a faster approach because many people who don't have credit cards or do not want to use for security reasons can use this. Just use the details on the card and book tickets. You get in 500, 1000, 1500 and so on denominated cards.

Statistics show that 22% of online bookings have been through cash cards.

3 years ago, government also introduced booking through cell phones. Using cell phones you can not only book, but also know the PNR status and arrival, departure details.

In order to further facilitate people who don't have access to internet, government has now tied up with nationalized banks like Canara, SBI, SBM etc. Now these bank ATM's at railways stations can be used to purchase tickets. One can do so with their debit cards and get e-ticket/print out from ATM's. Although the banks have given a ready "yes", they are in the process of setting up the facility. Thanks to Lalu Yadav...He is undoubtedly the best Railway Minister the country has seen so far.

According to the article(click here),

After entering into an agreement with the State Bank of India to set up 682 ATMs at railway stations, Indian Railways today entered into an agreement with six nationalised banks to set up another 711 ATMs at railway stations for passengers to withdraw cash. Out of the 711 ATMs, 473 will have e-ticketing facilities.

The banks include Canara Bank, Bank of Baroda, Dena Bank, Union Bank of India, Indian Bank and Punjab National Bank. Currently , 86 ATMs have been installed at various stations and by the end of 2006-07, 250 ATMs are expected to be operational. The Railways aims to set up 4,000 ATMs at various stations.

In fact, Canara Bank ATM's can be used to purchase train tickets using the ATM interface in Kanyakumari, Madurai etc.

Bulk booking or corporate booking is still not allowed online.


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