The Indian Railways have been around since the times of the British Raj. They have played an integral part in molding our country into what it is. Our economy is still heavily reliant on the Railroads. They carry more than eight billion passengers annually and employ over one million people. It regularly pulls in revenues in excess of thirty billion dollars. Such gigantic figures are only possible due to an ever-growing usage and workforce. But there was a time in the late 1900s when the railways dipped in popularity and usage, due to better roads and the introduction of air travel.
The IR knew they had to introduce new methods to attract more passengers and increase revenues. In 1987 they decided to introduce a computerized ticketing system; this would replace the old and defunct manual reservation system. The real breakthrough, however, came when the IR shifted its entire operations online in 1995, is one of the pioneers of using the Internet for its services. One could check train status and availability of trains via this new system. As of now the entire ticketing system is computerized, bar certain areas which are too remote for such arrangements to function properly.
Out of the seven thousand plus railway stations across India, more than six thousand have access to and are networked with reserved or unreserved ticketing systems. The reservation system helped solved many problems like advanced booking, which can now be done up to 120 days prior to the date of travel. This can be done via the IRCTC website, SMS, at railway stations or through private train booking counters.
In case of unforeseen circumstances which force people to travel at short notice, a service called Tatkal ticket is available. This type of ticket can help reserve a seat, but at a higher fare than a general ticket.
Tickets show the passenger and fare details along with a seat number, in case of a confirmed ticket. But in the case of an unconfirmed ticket, there is a waitlist number present on the ticket. The owner of a wait-listed ticket has to wait for a certain number of cancellations before he is allowed to board a train. If their ticket cannot be confirmed on the day of departure the ticket-holder is not allowed to board the train.
There is a special ticket called a reservation against cancellation ticket, which allows the holder to board the train despite not having a seat; the ticket collector finds the holder a vacant and suitable seat.
India has one of the lowest ticket fares in the world, and passenger traffic is subsided by higher fares. Special fares and discounts are available for senior citizens over the age of sixty, students, athletes and those taking part in competitive government exams. For women passengers, one compartment of the lowest class of accommodation is earmarked on every single passenger train. Sometimes entire berths and seats are also kept reserved for women.
IR has taken the important steps in the right direction for the organization to grow and flourish, with more technological advancements it is set to break all barriers and continue its progress.