An efficient ticketing system ensures that every passenger is accounted for and that the railways can keep a track on sales use tickets as a sort of receipts to keep track of revenue and profits. The older systems were quite a hassle to keep and maintain and as time went on the tickets just piled up and made it unnecessarily difficult to keep a track of all the sold tickets. The Indian Railways for almost a few decades relied heavily on manual ticketing and it was not until the late 80s that IR decided to switch up to a computerised ticketing system.
The latest iteration of the system went online in 1995 to provide current information on status and availability. The ticketing networks at stations are fully computerised with the exception of remote areas. As of March 2017, close to 6000 stations are equipped with reserved or unreserved ticketing systems. There are now many websites which allow people to book tickets.
Reserved ticket booking is also available and can be booked up to 120 days in advance, on any travel website, smartphone app, SMS and rail reservation counters at train stations. A Tatkal train ticket can be booked by passengers travelling at short notice with a reserved seat or berth. These tickets, however, are sold at higher fares than regular tickets.
Confirmed tickets have the passenger and fare details along with berth or seat number(s) allocated to them on the ticket. If the reservation is not available on a particular train, the ticket has a wait-list number. It is generally hard for a reserved ticket holder to find a seat. For suburban network trains, generally one can get unreserved tickets valid for a limited time or season passes which allow unlimited travel between two stops for a period of time. Commuters can purchase season passes and tickets at stations or through various mobile apps.
India has some of the lowest train fares in the world, and passenger traffic is subsidised by higher-class fares. This makes railways the most used public transport system in the country and one of the largest systems in the world. On top of this, there are discounted tickets are available for senior citizens, differently-abled, students and athletes.
The ease in travel and the advent of online ticketing has made travel nearly hassle free, all one needs to do is show up with their phone along with the train details and they are set to go. Popular routes like Mumbai-Delhi, Mumbai- Kolkata and Delhi-Bangalore trains have a feature which allows travellers to keep track of their trains’ arrival and departure timings, PNR status and much more.
Technology has pushed forward the rise of IR and now more than ever its utilization will increase as the investment from the government is set to double over the next few years. Trains are paramount to the functioning of the government and are essential to the livelihood of many local commuters. Apart from the ease factor of the railways, they are also very comfortable and take travellers to trails off the beaten path.