Frustrated with ‘not available’ (waiting list) and ‘regret’ (sale closed) responses from the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) website? Come September-end and you may have one more web portal to book tickets online. Since the earlier anomalies are being taken care of, chances are the availability may actually go up.
After stripping IRCTC of catering business on trains as well as at stations, the Railways may deal another blow to the much-maligned PSU with its own portal (www.indianrail.gov.in) likely to start sale of e-tickets in two months.
Though the IRCTC will continue with sale of e-tickets, the latest move may help end the PSU’s monopoly. Currently, thirty per cent of all rail bookings are done through the IRCTC website. “Yes, the Railways is mulling such a move. We’re basically looking to provide multiple booking avenues to passengers. There is no war,” said a top official.
The Railways has already freed the IRCTC of catering — which formed its core business — on Rajdhani, Duronto, Shatabdi and all other mail and express trains. The new catering policy, unveiled only recently, says the Railways will take over management of all mobile catering services including base kitchens, pantry cars and all food stalls in railway premises.
The Centre for Railway Information Systems (CRIS), the information technology wing of the Railways, is expected to work on providing e-ticketing facility on the Indian Railways website www.indianrail.gov.in
But does the passenger stand to benefit from the move? “See, getting access to the IRCTC website has been an uphill task especially when the sale starts. So much so that the IRCTC had to ban e-ticketing agents (around 8 lakh of them) from using Tatkal facility between 8AM to 9AM. The additional window, if it happens, will be of immense help,” said another official.
The Railways recently banned IRCTC web-based agents from accessing tatkal bookings after complaints that they were “grabbing” berths to sell them at a premium.