From Kingfisher's demise to Etihad's investment in Jet Airways, airlines have dominated headlines about India as of late, but a lot of the real action is taking place in the rail sector. PhoCusWright, for example, projects that rail will gain share in the overall India travel market over the next couple of years.
The novel, easy-to-use train ticket booking service through mobile phones announced in the 2012-13 Railway Budget kicked off from Monday in India.
Instead of standing in serpentine queues or hunting for an Internet connection, tickets can now be booked within minutes from any basic mobile phone through SMS using two dedicated numbers — 139 and 5676714.
A senior railway official here explained the new time-saving scheme to the Kahleej Times.
You have to register the mobile number with your bank which will provide a mobile money Identifier (MMId) and one-time password (OTP) for authorisation of payment. Then register the mobile number also with the Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC).
For booking a ticket, you have to send an SMS to one of the two dedicated numbers providing travel details like train number, date of journey, boarding station and destination and class of travel, besides name, age and gender of the passenger.
On receiving the SMS, the IRCTC will send a transaction ID. The passenger has to reply to the SMS with PAY followed by the transaction ID and the bank password (OTP). This confirms the booking and the ticket amount will be deducted from your bank account.
On successful booking of ticket, a message will be sent to the user by IRCTC which will be sufficient as the valid travel document along with photo ID card in original.
The official said a text message to the dedicated numbers was enough and there would be no need for Internet at any stage — booking, payment, cancellation etc., adding that the scheme would reduce the heavy rush at stations, do away with touts, and allow even illiterate people to book the ticket without going all the way to a distant station.
Online booking of tickets is now around 45 per cent of total reserved tickets and has already eased the rush at booking counters. Since the mobile penetration in India has increased rapidly and more than 80 per cent people have mobile phones, the new system will be helpful in enabling booking of tickets by people themselves.
R R Goswami, who travels extensively by train and has been a member of railway users’ committee, told some 160,000 people, including passengers and their relatives and friends, visited the station daily and the number doubled during long vacations. ___
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