Fed up with long rail ticket queues, exploiting touts and Internet blues? Here comes help. Now, in a matter of minutes and with two SMSs you can book your ticket through your mobile phone.

Railway Minister Mallikarjun Kharge on Friday launched the facility, making easy purchase of tickets by 80 per cent population that owns mobile phones. The only limitations are that the software will accept entries only in English, and you cannot book tickets between 8 a.m. and 12 noon.

IRCTC has come up with a number of options for passengers to buy tickets without having to access the Internet. Besides the short code 5676714, one can even send an SMS to 139 or the Airtel Money system *400# or the system powered by Pyro where one needs to have a BSNL SIM card enabled with Java computer language.

To make use of any of these options, you have to get your mobile number registered with IRCTC. Each SMS will cost Rs. 3 and as the project is being launched on a pilot basis, mobile service providers have dispensed with agent charges for now. These charges as and when imposed would be the same one pays to other agents, including online charges.

One will not be required to carry a hard copy of the ticket while travelling — the SMS confirmation will be valid proof. The facility allows for ticket cancellation as well.

Mr. Kharge said anyone with a simple mobile phone would be able to buy reserved tickets from any corner of the country. This would put an end to fleecing by touts.

Railway Board Chairman Vinay Mittal said once the system stabilised it would be improved further. Noting that 45 per cent of the reserved tickets were booked through the Internet, he said one way of easing the pressure was to go for new technologies.

IRCTC Managing Director Rakesh Tandon said value-added services would be provided in due course.

Currently four lakh tickets were purchased online everyday, he said.