Railways...Booking Blues....

January 21, 2011

I have never been able to find any semblance of good logic or design in the Railways’ booking procedures. There was a time, prior to the Internet, when one had to stand in different queues for even and odd dates. This meant that if you were going, say, to Chennai on the 2nd, and returning on the 3rd…you had to join two queues!

There were no separate queues for the enquiry window. If you wanted to enquire about a train, you HAD to join the huge queue of people waiting to book tickets. Very often, after all that the time you spent, you reached the window to be told that your train “was not available” or something like that, and you went away, cursing the bad design of the booking counters queue system.

Even their “consumer-friendly” measures are hilarious. The Railways provided seats for people who were waiting in the queues (which were especially serpentine in Jayanagar 4th Block Complex, I think, due to the slowness of the clerk’s work.) But do you think we had a system where the consumer could walk up, take a token, and then sit down anywhere, and await hes turn, as happens in banks? Of course not! You had to go and take the last chair.Then, when the consumer at the head of the queue got to a counter…the ENTIRE queue played musical chairs, moving forward just one seat! Did no one see the hilarious illogic of this? No. That was the way it was (and probably still is) done in the Railway Booking Centres.

Then online booking came into existence, and citing “level playing field”, the booking was closed down for 8 hours every night. I found this also ridiculous as touts and agents could still book tickets and hoard them. They tried to circumvent this by preventing people from booking more than a few tickets at a time. But even today, 8am to 9am or so on the Railways booking site is just impossible. And imagine…if someone is trying to book a ticket from another country. They do not know all these problems, and wonder why it is so difficult to book a railway ticket in India, which writes the software for the travel sites of so many other countries. The whole attitude of the booking procedure seems negative to me..you can’t do this, you can’t do that….I can book an upper berth or lower berth if I like, but on a day train, I still onluy prefer a window …but not the seat I want, in the coach. Why should this be so? I wrote to the Railways, and the reply was….”We run xxx no. of trains every day, so it’s not possible to consider your request.” What the hell! On those same xxx trains, you can let me choose upper or lower berths on overnight trains…then why not seats on day trains? Surely I should be able to block any of the free seats according to my preference? …Illogical…with a capital “I”!

Even today, one cannot book a return ticket on the Railways website. How can they justify such foolishness? Why must we go through two separate procedures, when even bus companies have facilities for booking return tickets?

I think such stupidities and taking-the-customer-for-granted problems will always be there as long at the Railways are a monopoly….