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Notes on tech

Notes on technology, business, enterpreneurship, economy, markets along with interesting general tidbits.

Getting rail tickets in India

4/19/2006 10:28:00 PM, posted by anand

I am going to travel to New Delhi tonite and then to Lucknow. As there are no direct flights to Lucknow from Ahmedabad, so I'll have to make a stopover in New Delhi, spend a couple of days there meeting relatives there and then head over to Lucknow.

During my previous trips, I have used the Spicejet and GoAir websites to get my tickets done. This time my travel plan was a bit convoluted. I am going to fly Ahmedabad to Delhi via Spicejet. Then take a train (Swarn Shatabdi, AC Chair) to Lucknow and finally fly back to Delhi on Deccan Air and then to Ahmedabad on Spicejet.

For my ticket reservations I got online. Air Deccan had a decent enough website. Not very intuitive, but good enough. The site played well with Firefox. So no qualms there.

To purchase a railway ticket a few years ago, your only two options were to either waste your entire day at the railway reservtion counter standing in a serpentine queue, or to give some extra undertable money to a ticket tout and have him waste his day standing in the queue. Sometime ago (2001 ?) Indian Railways put up a website to allow you to check train timings, availability and even to book tickets directly. I have gotten so used to getting tickets done the old way that this sounded too good to be true. Being an online enthusiast, I decided to get onto the Indian infobahn to get my rail tickets.

I was pleasantly surprised. For something as archaic as the railways, their website's functionality was great. The UI of their site is a bit confusing with flashy stuff and tickers and other gimmicky stuff, but I'll give them a close 8/10 on the functionality. I was able to find information on all trains between New Delhi and Lucknow, find the availability (including the number of seats remaining to be booked) and then finally book the tickets.

The railways website offered many options to pay for the tickets. Pay by credit card, pay by direct bank transfer etc. We went for the direct bank transfer from my ICICI bank. They even gave me an option for paper tickets or paperless tickets. Finding this stuff too good to be true, I went with the paper ticket option. I didnt want to goto the railway station and then explain that I got my tickets online. So I figured that having a paper ticket in hand is always better than your ticket in cyberspace.

The site stated that the tickets would be delivered in 2-3 days via courier, after the purchase. I booked my tickets done at 11.15 PM and the tickets were delivered the next day at 10.30 AM sharp. Talk about underpromising and overdelivering. Unbelievably fast. They even sent me a confirmation email when I booked my tickets. For the functionality they offer, I would go to the extent of saying that the railways website by far trumped the airline sites in terms of functionality.

They've turned me into a fan! Woohoo!!
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