After my move to Bangalore in May, 2018, I became a frequent traveller to and from Bangalore to Calicut(Kozhikode). There is only one direct train from Bangalore to Calicut that’s invariably full on weekends.
These frequent trips in trains has made me think quite a lot about the way we are cheated by Indian railways. This very much aligns to my so called theme of “Government – the biggest fraudulent entity”.
Find below 15 unfair ways where passengers are taken for a ride and looted.
1) RAC (Reservation Against Cancellation)
While you can’t board a train with a wait-listed e-ticket, with RAC – you are given a seat/half berth which is to be shared with another poor mortal facing the same situation. The unfair part is due to the fact that you are paying full fare of a sleeper berth.
Is it okay since you usually get the berth confirmed ? Well, the problem is, with just a single train in some routes, weekends/holidays/long week ends the chances of confirmation is next to nil. Another issue is that the terminology of cancellation is confusing. It’s cancellation after chart preparation. Chart preparation happens usually 2-3 hours before departure of the train from origin station or the previous night for early morning trains. The problem is that with next to nil cancellation fee refund on last minute cancellation, passengers don’t cancel tickets as they have already lost the money/ they don’t get time.
Why RAC is illegal ?
- Railway is taking the FULL AMOUNT for a berth from two passengers and asking them to share it.
- The quota of RAC per coach has increased(misguided title) over a period of time so that they can make more money citing that more passengers can travel where as the true intention seems to be looting. If it’s a service, half of the amount collected should be refunded.
- The inconvenience of waiting/uncertainty till chart preparation is not factored.
- Even if the seat is confirmed, it could be after midnight where the passenger cannot sleep till that time and has to pester the TTE to know the status.
- Possibility of lack of transparency on who was confirmed and the order of cancellation.
- No alternate means of transport is usually possible within 3 hours before for an over night travel.
- For an AC RAC the pain is even more because you pay a high fare for a berth and you will not even be provided with sheets/blankets.
- During day time part of the journey, it would be 3 people sharing two seats, as the side upper berth is for a confirmed passenger
My humble suggestion to Indian Railways is to stop RAC. You either give a full berth or treat it as an unconfirmed wait list ticket. When I asked TTE’s (Traveling Ticket Examiner) some said it’s the system we can’t change. Life would have been easier for them too if it’s not there. There was a TTE who suggested to file a case in consumer court against railways stating the inconvenience and asking for a compensation. I feel the whole RAC is against principle of natural justice. The passenger has no way to question railways for being forced to share a berth in spite of paying the full amount.
2) TQWL (Tatkal Quota Waiting List)
This is another area where Railways make a fool of people. If my understanding is right, TQWL has lower priority over GNWL(General Waiting List).
But during tatkal booking opening time, ie one day before train starts at 10 am for AC and 11 am for sleeper class, IRCTC allows booking of waiting listed tatkal tickets.
Why TQWL is illegal ?
- Court order on priority for GNWL over TQWL.
- Allowing and deducting money as reservation charge on TQWL.
- Amount gets refunded after many days, its money that shouldn’t have deducted in the first place.
As per IRCTC,
For benefit of passengers who have to plan their journey at the last moment and cannot secure reserved accommodation, Railways provide “Tatkal” ticket booking facility on payment of premium charges on ‘first come first served’ basis.
Tatkal Charges applicable for journey starting from 24.12.2015 onwards
Class of Travel Minimum Tatkal Charges (in Rs.) Maximum Tatkal Charges (in Rs.) Minimum Distance for Charge (in Km) Second(sitting) 10 15 100 Sleeper 100 200 500 AC Chair Car 125 225 250 AC 3 Tier 300 400 500 AC 2 Tier 400 500 500 Executive 400 500 250
But what’s happening is that all passengers end up trying for Tatkal on week ends, because reserved accommodation is not available even a month before on most routes with few trains.
When technology is already used to allow an automatic queuing and priority for booking in other modes of transport why is it that Railways has a difficulty ? What should be done is that the ticket should be held till the timeout period for payment. Chance should be given for the alternate mode of payment and if that too fails within time out period then only it should be made available for the next user. Now most of the time the booking simply goes to TQWL.
3) Reservation Charges for auto cancelled tickets
Indian Railways seems to be the only travel mode allowing wait listed tickets and that too long waiting lists. You cannot book a ticket on a flight or bus if there are no vacant seats. But railways on some routes allows huge number of wait listed passengers. There is also no limitation in booking multiple tickets by the same person in different class, because railways would get the cancellation charges.
Why is it illegal ?
- Taking a charge/fee for services not rendered. Reservation fee is taken whether the reservation happens or not, whether it’s counter booked ticket or ticket booked over the counter. For over the counter booking at least clerk-age can be assumed, but what is the logic of taking money for So what is the service rendered ?
- Making the passenger in suspense and creating mental agony and tension till chart preparation.
- Make him check waiting list status in a difficult way, get him through a CAPTCHA.
- Call 139 or send SMS to check status and make it a premium service where our call and SMS will have additional charge.
Just being sarcastic
4) No option in mobile app to book only if confirmed seats are available while booking tatkal and then taking charges for it.
In the IRCTC mobile app there is no option to book ticket a tatkal ticket only if the ticket can be confirmed. So what happens is that the booking goes into TQWL(Tatkal Quota Waiting List). And people assume that it will almost never get confirmed. If you forget to cancel and if it gets confirmed by chance you loose the entire money of the booking.
A lot many times I have faced situations during tatkal hours where after payment, it goes to TQWL. Why can’t Railways have a lock in mechanism and allow sufficient time for completing the payment. And the worst is the last page with a TQWL ticket.
While booking using IRCTC mobile app, there is no option to say that don’t book ticket if it cannot be confirmed. Booking and payment will go through resulting in a delayed refund without reservation charges.
5) Confirming TQWL at chart preparation and intimating after train has left.
This is a sequel to the previous problem.
I once came across a situation, where I tried booking a 3 tier ac tatkal ticket to Aluva during summer holidays in 2018 and it went to TQWL.
A TQWL 16, chances of confirmation ? 0% being a week end. I booked on a Karnataka SRTC Airavat. Took a long time to reach the bus station. Totally forgot about the cancellation as it was TQWL.
The trains’ scheduled departure was supposed to be at 20:36. I reached St. John’s hospital stop from Whitefield after the traffic blocks with great difficulty before the bus time.
At 9:29PM I got the following message
Called help line and just got a rude response asking to contact by phone and later sent mail at firstname.lastname@example.org . It took hours together on phone and email. End of story they did not refund a single rupee and it was just utter waste of time.
How can they send the confirmation message after train departure ?
6) No concession for children less than 12 years.
Yes this is one of the new FEATURES introduced by the “new” government in 2016 from April 22.
While you may get a concession in a bus for child passengers, not so any more in trains, reason stated is that they occupy full berth. The question is if that is the case, what about the situation where full fare is taken from 2 passengers and they are asked to share the seat in the case of RAC. Also if its a matter of concession, if it can be provided to well off senior citizens, why not children, when middle class is already struggling with child care/education.
7) 4 month/120 day advance booking
The advance booking period was gradually increased by IRCTC. Looks like the motive is pure profit from cancellation of tickets.
When people are given the chance to book in advance, they don’t want to miss the opportunity to miss a planned travel. But practically the longer the planned period of travel, higher is the chance of changed travel plan.
This is what is used/misused by IRCTC, take advantage of the high probability of cancellation and thereby cancellation fee.
If the advance booking period is high, the cancellation charge should be less if cancelled within say 1 month before the journey.
8) Huge cancellation penalty
You get nothing on short routes
IRCTC allows tickets to be booked before 4 months which increases the odds/probability of cancellation and an easy way to make money. Whether it was a known policy decision or not is something that only Railways can answer but its a sure way of making money by increasing the probability of cancellation.
Next to nil amount as refund for short distance on cancellation.
Cancellation charges for various classes are given below
3Tier AC (3AC)
So if you are cancelling on shorter route you get nothing.
9) IRCTC Wallet
IRCTC wallet was introduced and people assumed that there would be some benefit for users. But IRCTC made fun of users. Apart from keeping the deposit they charge extra for every transaction even though its a prepaid mode of payment. By keeping the minimum recharge of 100, it becomes very difficult to empty the wallet. There is no option to get the amount refunded or transferred back to the account.
Apart from all this, for a long period the SMS never worked. So if you thought that you can book tatkal ticket faster using it, it was never possible. With a registration fee of 50 rupees +GST and transaction fee of INR 10+GST, no option to the money back and since it can only be used for train ticket booking, it deserves the worst ewallet service of India award.
10) Premium/Dynamic fare when there is a monopolistic single operator
Indian Railways frequently displays the message, that only 66 percentage of the amount is recovered by the fare we pay. The question is, is it because of the inefficient way the system is run, when government steals 30 percentage of the money and distribute it for the so called services.
Indian Railways is a monopolistic operator, with exclusive access to trains and tracks. If it is meant as a service, take what money it takes to operate without loss by reducing the inefficiency. When there is no other operator how can dynamic pricing be introduced as there is nobody else to decide on demand vs supply.
11) Advertisement Overload
Indian railways is probably unique in many ways. It’s probably the biggest railway network in terms of passengers, route length and perhaps the biggest booking portal.
It’s also probably the only government funded and supported organization in the world having huge number of advertisements on it’s web site/mobile app.
See what they say about their passengers to advertisers
Ping us on email@example.com (mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org)to Advertise with IRCTC IRCTC offers a wonderful opportunity to reach out to an exclusive registered users base of over 6.6 Crore Creditworthy, Internet savvy users spread across the country and all over the world. Along withoptions for sending the mails, SMS & advertisements to registered & active user base. IRCTC also offers extremely focused targeting of various sections of our user base such as Age, Sex, Class oftravel, ticket status, source station, destination station, schedule arrival & departure time etc. many more permutations & combination
Shameless, blatant advertisement, we are living in a country where no body really bothers.
How irritating it is, to see ad’s when you are paying money for the ticket. Probably they should provide a discount for clicking on the ads
As if there are not sufficient ads
12)137/139 Premium SMS/Call charges
IRCTC support options over phone are all chargeable. All the IVRS options through their main numbers are billed at around INR 1 per minute. So if you have them at fault and want to complain or clarify, you pay money for it. It’s not a new thing, even banks/credit card companies have started fooling customers, by giving a premium number which starts with 18 but continues as 1860 rather than 1800. Well that needs to be another post.
13)TDR Filing after train departure
Missed train due to delay in connecting train, now you get nothing, even if train delayed by 5 hours in an over night train, along with the inconvenience, discomfort, lack of sleep and all the pains of missing a train, finding alternate means is almost impossible
In 2015 with a Gazette (https://www.services.irctc.co.in/betaDoc/Amendments_RefundRules_2406.pdf ) it was made a law that you should file TDR within hours before the departure of the train.
14) SUPER FAST charges on super slow trains and penalty for travelling on those trains without taking supplemental charges
15) Rounding up to 5 rupees for online tickets where every paisa can accurately be charged
With all the rants
So now to possible solutions to streamline and make things better
- Do the first level of chart preparation 1 hour before Tatkal booking so that people who are in the waiting list who might get confirmed don’t attempt for TQWL
Encourage cancellation so that seats become available for passengers who really want to travel. If there is a change of plan, people will not cancel if they know they are getting next to nil. Give a full refund if the amount is kept with IRCTC wallet.
Have an increased fare for TQWL to ensure people only travel on TQWL when there is a real need.
Add more coaches/trains where there is a single train/ consistent TQWL overages
Allow 3rd part API integration with back end, they are doing a better job than CRIS/IRCTC
Put the past and current data to public domain
- Many new ways of solving age old problems have already come through startups like whereismytrain.
- Remove CAPTCHA in providing basic information like
- Putting ads all over the place and sending AD notification is heights of insult to the IRCTC mobile app users.
- Reduce tatkal quota seats and make those seats available at tatkal rates, it would reduce some network traffic during tatkal booking time and railways will not loose any money
With inputs from CC Parameshwar, my colleague and the first person whom I know who has the hobby of studying railway time table and knows it all.