But Railways says it is working on it

Booking tickets for travel by rail can be a difficult process, whether online or in person. If it isn’t the snaking queues you have to deal with, it’s the slow Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation Ltd. (IRCTC) website, about which there are jokes aplenty.

However, there are times when the old-fashioned way works better for passengers: Tojo Joseph, an HR manager in a software company who frequently books train tickets online, says there are occasions when he prefers standing in line at a reservation counter.

“Getting a ticket at the booking counters in the Jayanagar or Koramangala BDA Complex can sometimes be quicker than booking online if you go during off-peak hours, and even if you are put on the waiting list, your ticket will be valid for travel,” he said.

According to data made available by the South Western Railways, there are 38 reservation counters at 10 railway stations, and 27 more counters across the city and its outskirts. On an average, 12,000 reserved tickets and 55,000 unreserved tickets are sold every day.

When it comes to buying tatkal tickets for immediate travel, the process — in person or online — is often unpleasant.

Vaishnavi D., a software firm employee who frequently buys train tickets, says tatkal booking online is a “major disadvantage” on the IRCTC website, as it can take 45 minutes to an hour to know if your booking has been successful or not.

And when buying tatkal tickets in person, sometimes the queues can begin the previous night before the counter opens — touts, who book slots in the queue, take advantage of desperate passengers by providing them with the scarce tickets for a higher price.

N. Ramesh, Senior Divisional Commercial Manager, South Western Railways, Bangalore Division, says the problem of touts is being addressed firmly: “The Commercial Division and the Railway Protection Force (RPF) used to conduct separate inspections; but since February 25, joint checks have been ordered.”

Between February 25 and March 3, 56 joint checks were conducted at Passenger Reservation System (PRS) centres in the SBC division and five touts were apprehended, he says.

Among the measures announced in the 2013 Rail Budget are a few aimed at improving the booking system: apart from attempting to put in a place a “Next Generation e-ticketing system” by the end of the year, Unique Identification numbers may be used to streamline a number of functions, including buying tickets and making reservations, to address the problem of touts.

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