Keeping in mind the high mobile phone penetration in India, the railways Friday launched an SMS-based ticketing system aimed at improving customer convenience.
Launching the service, being run as a pilot project, Railway Minister Mallikarjun Kharge said it will also help the transporter deal with the touts who fleece the passengers.
"This service will be particularly useful for labourers and workers staying away from their homes and who have to book tickets to travel to their native place," said Kharge, adding: "While internet access in India is only about 10 per cent, more than 80 per cent people in the country use mobile phones."
Online booking of tickets is now around 45 percent of total reserved tickets and has eased the rush at booking counters, he said.
However, the real test of the service will be payment options available on the mobile phone as users will have to get an account opened through a bank or an agency approved by the Reserve Bank of India, said officials.
Railway Board Chairman Vinay Mittal said the service will be improved further with provision of more payment options, a user-friendly interface and value added services like alerts and updates.
He said payment through mobile phones was still evolving and banks are working on providing a safe, secured and quick payment mechanism.
As the payment options mature and users get accustomed to SMS based booking, it has the potential of overtaking bookings through internet as well as the booking counters, he said.