Auto PNR! What an Idea Sir!


Ticket booking from IRCTC has always been and is still the most addictive multiplayer game India ever produced. Forget tatkal. If somehow you survived the thousands (which infact is more than the website can handle) to get a ticket, problems are not yet over. A good initiative by the indian railways to go green had a tremendous impact as people need to carry only the confirmation SMS. Sadly the information in the SMS is hardly readable as it contains lot of unnecessary info (or it looks like that to me) and it is really difficult to locate the SMS for next train i’m going to board. You may need to remember your seat and coach number. Also, if you are having a ticket that is not confirmed, its not very easy to get the status as the website is not responsive and the UI of current PNR status apps are crappy.

Here is where this gem of an app I found comes in handy. AutoPNR is an android application developed by Abu Sufiyan. It works like a charm with its simple and responsive interface. It simply reads your SMS stack to get the active tickets and displays the details like your PNR number, Seat number, time of departure, train number etc in a neat and clean way. This app actually helped me today to realise that I have booked a wrong ticket for my return this monday. By clicking on the entries you can see the live status of the ticket incase if it is not confirmed.

So no more searching through SMS. Use AutoPNR. You can find the link to the app below.

AutoPNR

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Laptop on Road

IRCTC Going Green?


irctc going greenWhen you take the Indian railway portal (irctc.co.in) you can now see a message on right side which says “Please do not take printout of E-Tickets, Travel with electronic tickets”. The “slide show” continues to say “Save Paper, We can save 3 lakhs of A4 size paper everyday”. three hundred thousand? Well, good move! Late though. Better not think about the paper wasted in last 2-3 years. I really wanted something “like” this. But does the new “innovative” attempt by Indian Railways going to work? Before starting analysis, lets take a look at their detailed explanation.

Electronic Reservation Slip (ERS) – The printout in standard specified Performa containing reservation particulars, and instructions for use which can be used by the passenger along with the relevant authorized Identification, as travel authority for performing the journey.

Virtual Reservation Message (VRM) – A screen-shot of the e-ticket displayed through laptops/palmtops/ Mobile phone is referred as Virtual Reservation Message (VRM).

ERS/VRM along with any one of the eight prescribed ID proofs in original and the indication of the passenger(s)’ name(s) in the Reservation Chart will authorize the passenger to travel.

VRM combined with valid photo-id in original will be treated as an instrument on par with the ERS.

ERS/VRM along with one of the eight prescribed proofs of identity in original will also authorize the passenger to enter the platform on the day of journey and he/she will not be required to purchase platform ticket. ERS/VRM along with original id proof will be required to be produced on demand of Ticket Checking Staff on the platform.

Reference : Railway Board Letter No.2008/TG-I/10/P/SMS dated 20.07.2011

So, they are calling the new thing VRM: Virtual Reservation Message as opposed to ERS: Electronic(irony?) Reservation Slip. It says,”Carry your ticket in electronic mode using mobile, laptop, ipad”. As they used 3 words, lets split the scenario to 3 scenarios.

Mobile

Most cellphones in India may not be having “proper” internet facilities ( minimum of 3G is required for irctc.co.in to load.). But most might be having a facility to display an image and a data cable. so they take a screenshot from somewhere and copy it to their cell. Here the best case is an iPhone or equivalent where we can use the touch screen to zoom it. But majority of phones need to do terrible stuff to get it zoomed if the TTE (travelling ticket examiner) requires you to. The following might happen most likely in this case.

Passenger taking a cellphone from his pocket and says: “Here is the ticket”
TTE: “Where? I cant see a thing.”

Laptop

There is an image that comes to my mind when I think about flipping opening my laptop while trying to get up from the upper birth of a sleeper when the TTE wakes me up.

Laptop on Road

It would be nice if traffic penalties are as simple as this (?)

For facts about the photo, see: The Case of a Dumb Email Forward

Hope that says it all.

iPad

This might work, as it can display a ticket fully and somewhat easy to carry. But how many people have it? Personally, as I have a laptop and an iPod Touch, I don’t have a use for something intermediate and I’m not going to buy it for sake of carrying VRMs.

A Humble Suggestion

Trees can be saved better. Think about why are we taking an ERS. What information is getting verified there? Probably the PNR number. One cannot argue that the irctc account in which the ticket is booked is verified against the ID Proof. According to IRCTC policy, Any one of the passenger can show ID proof. So its about the PNR number. If feasible it would be nice if a passenger is allowed to carry the PNR number ( any form say as an SMS draft, note etc) and the ID proof, which simplifies verification like never before.

Verdict

This is a good “attempt” from IRCTC and should be appreciated. But as a final verdict, I should say, “Try this at your own risk!” You can satisfy the TTE in train. But an RPF personnel or a cop at a train station may not be aware of this and he might demand ticket in hard copy and if you don’t have it, there is a great chance of unnecessary trouble.

How to book a Tatkal Ticket!


Its now Christmas days and most of us are trying to get home for the celebrations or at least some good holidays. It is during the festival seasons that we experience the most of difficulty in booking tickets, especially the train tickets through irctc.co.in, The Indian railway website. Imagine if I’m doing a tatkal booking which will only be available from 8 AM 2 days before the journey and if the same is for my Christmas holidays, that will be the busiest moment for irctc servers. Having booked the ticket after a long battle with them, I want to share some tips on how to book a tatkal ticket on the worst possible conditions.

IRCTC like India is a democratic website. Here the one with the slowest internet connection and the one with the fastest internet connection can book only in the same speed. The “Service Unavailable!” page makes this possible by randomly displaying it after every user action. So, as you are now ready to book a tatkal, now the time is 7.45 AM, 2 days before the journey. Do the following steps.

  1. Try to access http://www.irctc.co.in
  2. If you get the page “Service Unavailable!” or “Page cannot be displayed”, don’t give up, refresh (press F5) until the page gets loaded.
  3. Log in with your user name and password.
  4. Press quick book if you know the train number. Here you can directly fill the data and proceed to payment. but sometimes the calender in that page won’t load and you can’t set the date. In that case go to the previous page, enter data in “Plan my travel” page and press “Find trains” button with the current date. Select the train you want and click on the radio button for the desired class. Now you will see the availability of current date as well as the next two days. so click “Book” corresponding to the journey date and continue with payment.

Tips

  • If the calendar loads properly in quick book page, that’s the best option.
  • While doing any of these steps or after processing the payments. “Service Unavailable” page may/will come across. refresh the page until it gets loaded.
  • If irctc shows some error, press the back button in your browser and start from the previous page that loaded properly.
  • Never log in again in any situation. only retards do that and use “back” and “refresh” buttons instead.
  • Try not to waste the time looking at ticket availability. We will check that after booking.
  • Be fast. It will jump to waiting list in half an hour.

I know that there is a cool option of booking a normal ticket months before. But we can’t always do that, can we? Tatkal ticket booking as I experience as of now is a tough battle where the fastest or the smartest will survive to get their tickets. But I seriously can’t believe that they are turning of their servers after 10 PM and starting the same daily at 8 AM like office. Happy ticket booking!

Update: Today when I tried to book a tatkal ticket, page didn’t load after money transaction and I lost money like this two times. I will get a reimbursement from irctc and I lost money not because of following any of these instructions, I’m sure of that. But this incident is making me think of inserting a disclaimer.

Disclaimer: The tips and instructions provided above is based on my personal experience and it is only my personal opinion. It holds no warranty. I will not be responsible for any kind of settlement for any kind of loss as a result of following the above instructions.