Buying railway tickets online could soon be a hassle-free experience. Indian Railways’ online ticket selling outfit IRCTC (Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation Ltd), plans to invest Rs 100 crore to revamp its online ticketing system. With that, the website’s ticket-processing capacity will see a 275 per cent jump, up from the current 2,000 tickets a minute to 7,500 tickets.
The investment is also expected to raise IRCTC’s daily revenue from the current Rs 54 lakh to Rs 90 lakh, an increase of 67 per cent. In FY13, IRCTC’s annual revenue from passenger ticketing was Rs 210 crore.
“We expect that the consumer undergoes no pain while booking but we cannot completely achieve this until the huge gap between the demand and supply of tickets is bridged,” said Rakesh Tandon, managing director, IRCTC. The new website is expected to be launched later this year after the tendering for hardware support is finalised.
IRCTC’s existing website has drawn flak for slow speed, clogging and non-functionality. The new website, which has been designed by the Centre for Railway Information Systems (CRIS), aims to tackle these issues. “The new website would not make a call to the servers for simple operations such as filtering or sorting information. Such operations would be performed locally on the user’s machine, thus improving the experience while reducing network latencies and load on the servers. This will enhance the speed and efficiency of the website which happen to be the main problems today,” said Sunil Bajpai, project head, CRIS.
The changes in the new website include separate connection with the banks regarding the payments, hence making payment systems separate from the booking servers. This will enhance speed and performance, with less probability of the payments being stuck in the midst of a transaction. All filters on the new website such as train list, class of journey, and seat availability will work on client’s computer not straining the servers.
The new website will have enhanced security and fraud detection and one can also resume incomplete transactions lost due to connectivity issues. “Merely separating the servers will not solve the congestion issues; there is something more that needs to be done,” said a senior project engineer, explaining the features of the new software.
“The work we are doing today shall provide a platform to support innovation that may not even be conceivable now. For instance, tickets held on an NFC (near field communication) phone can be automatically validated for boarding,” added Bajpai.
For interim relief, until hardware tenders are scrutinised, CRIS has created a passenger inquiry portal, which will start working with the current website. All passenger queries will be directed to that portal, taking off a huge load from the current website.
An efficient online ticketing system will also hit the business of ticket agents.
According to railway expert Akhileshwar Sahai, the number of seats in the trains is a much wider issue. “Every year, we have announcements for the new trains and the railways does not have capacity to have spare coaches anymore. The mandate of the IRCTC is to just improve the consumer’s experience and decrease the frustration caused which is a welcome step.”
The average booking per day on the website has increased from 390,000 in 2012 to over 400,000 now, with an average of 16 queries per booking at peak. Approximately, 50 per cent cancellations are made on e-ticket which contributes to the traffic.
“We expect that consumer undergoes no pain while booking, but we cannot completely achieve this until the huge gap between the demand and supply of tickets is bridged“said Rakesh Tondon, Managing Director, IRCTC. The new website is expected to be launched later this year after the tendering for hardware support is finalized.