Those who waited overnight to get a confirmed outstation ticket at Mumbai CST passenger reservation system (PRS) on Monday morning were in for a rude shock when the first passenger itself got a wait-listed ticket ! A random check by the local staff revealed that the tickets had already been booked from the Internet as early as 7:31 am, at least half an hour before the official opening time of 8 am.
While railway officials allege that this could be a scam of huge magnitude with railway ticket agents bribing officials to get confirmed summer vacation tickets when the passenger demand peaks, the Central Railway administration officially maintains that it is a technical error and that it would verify all the 600 bookings done during the period.
A senior railway official said the PRS is a national network of ticket reservation counters and it functions from 8 am to 8 pm and they were shocked to see that bookings had been done as early as 7:31 am. Most of the tickets that have been booked are for north-bound trains like Kushinagar Express, Pushpak Express and Mahanagri Express.
“Rail bookings for April 20 opened on Monday. This is peak vacation time and these trains are always full. The counters and all booking facilities like Internet, e-ticket, I ticket etc open at 8 am sharp across the country and there is simultaneous booking at all counters. So if bookings happened at 7:31 am on the Internet, it has affected passengers across the country. All the tickets booked before 8 am are with confirmed seats and maximum number of passengers on one ticket,” he added.
While chief commercial manager (passenger marketing) Shailendra Kumar was not available for comment on phone, Group General Manager of Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) Rajiv Dutt Sharma, in-charge of the railway bookings website, said the Internet bookings does not open till they get a password from the railways every morning.
“The problem occurred due to a mistake by a computer programmer at Centre For Railway Information System (CRIS), an autonomous organization of the Ministry of Railways, involved in maintenance of computer applications,” he added.
CR’s chief PRO Shriniwas Mudgerikar, however, said the railways will investigate the matter thoroughly. Preliminary findings have revealed railways were testing the software for the new policy of making tickets available from 60 days to 90 days in advance to be implemented from March 1, when nearly 600 tickets were booked during the period by all those who found the Internet option open. “We shall verify and crosscheck all the tickets that have been booked during the period,” he said.
A few mischievous PNR numbers
810-9740206- Kushinagar Express (6 seats confirmed, 20 April 2006), booked at 7:31 am
843-1529693- Kushinagar Express (6 seats confirmed, 20 April 2006), booked at 7:36 am
820-9740219- Mahanagri Express (6 seats confirmed, 20 April 2006), booked at 7:33 am
830-9740247- Mahanagri Express (6 seats confirmed, 20 April 2006) booked at 7:42 am
843-1529680- Mahanagri Express (6 seats confirmed, 20 April 2006), booked at 7:43 am
843-1529704- Pushpak Express (6 seats confirmed, 20 April 2006), booked at 7:40 am
843-1529707-Pushpak Express (6 seats confirmed, 20 April 2006), booked at 7:42 am.