Monday, 24 October 2011

The painful IRCTC experience

The world's fourth largest rail network - Indian Railways, moves millions of passengers every day.

Owned and operated by the Government of India, this network developed onwards after the British introduced the system in this country pre-Independence. Today, though it is as a requirement in terms of eco-friendly and cost-effective transportation in a developing country like India, it is sadly a striking symbol of a flailing system that needs severe broad ranging improvements. Be it quality of wagons, furnishings, rolling stock, reservation system or customer service.

About a few decades back, in tandem with the internet era setting through India, the Indian Railways also decided to set up a quasi-governmental body called the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation more familiarly known as IRCTC. Because of the strange laws that do not permit the Government of India to accept money directly from citizens, the IRCTC was formed and tasked with the objective of accepting bookings and payments.

I am usually among the first to take to new technologies. Like millions of my country men and women, I was happy about the new internet based ticketing and payment mechanism that had been introduced. Now, instead of going to a Railway station, standing in queue for hours, subject to the whims and timings of the ticketing operators, I could simply sit on my table, go on line and book as well as pay for the ticket. Complete electronic transactions, that were secure, efficient and painless. I spoke about this system in positive glowing terms to the rest of the world.

Yet, in 2011, my faith has been shaken by this system. This is my experience.

I had booked a 3AC (air conditioned three bunk sleeper coach) ticket from Madgaon, Goa to Kottayam, Kerala for 10 May 2011. Having returned to India in April, it was the last leg of a domestic trip that I was engaged in. And I was looking forward to a train ride instead of the normal flights, as a memorable event. Little was I to know, how memorably it would shape out.

When I had booked the ticket, the waiting list status had been in double digits. As the date of travel approached and my waiting list status changed to single digit, I was further re-assured.

The Dehradun - Kochuveli train scheduled to depart from Madgaon railway station at 2140 hours. As I had been residing at the northern end of Goa, it was not possible for me to spend time till later in the evening and reach the station. So, I arrived at the station by 11.30 AM in the morning. By the previous day, I had already checked and noted satisfactorily that my wait list status had become 3. High chance of getting confirmed. Yay!

On arriving at the station, I found out to my dismay that the 'link' between the computers in Goa and Delhi had developed a technical fault around 10 AM and therefore, status updates were not immediately possible. I was assured by the enquiry personnel that this should be sorted out soon.

So I waited. And waited. And continued to wait. By 8 PM after frantic running around meeting ticket reservation officials, railway station master and other assorted officials, I was informed that the technical fault has not been repaired. They were unable to even generate a chart containing the details of the passengers, including confirmations.

Obviously, it is illegal to board a train without a proper ticket. So I did purchase an ordinary ticket. Finally, on board the train, after a couple of stops a new Ticket Examiner arrived, who actually had a computer printed list with him. It indicated that my waiting list status was 1. He informed me that the list had been 'manually' generated and further assured me that since my ticket status was fully waitlisted, as per rules of the Indian Railways the ticket would be automatically cancelled and money refunded to my account.

Refund Information extracted from the IRCTC issued e-Ticket with PNR 2648159749

A whole night and some part of the morning - over 10 hours, spent standing near the entrance of a second class compartment was painful but stoically borne, given the circumstances. It happens. Next day, after reaching home, I called up the IRCTC customer care personnel, who on the phone informed me that as per normal rules, the refund would take place after 60 days from the date of travel.

65 days later, I wrote to the IRCTC. No response. Called. Finally was informed that there was a process called TDR (Ticket Deposit Receipt) that I should have engaged in within 35 days of the date of travel to claim the refund. I was obviously irritated. This had not been informed to me.

I was asked to re-start the entire mail communication. I did so. I continued to follow up. And repeatedly follow up. Finally fed up with the lack of a proper response, I made it clear that I was going to file under the RTI (Right To Information) Act as well as go to the Consumer Redressal Forum after informing Railway Board members and Railway Ministry officials. This elicited a response saying that they would file the TDR and process the refund.

After a 167 days since the date of travel and 82 days since I was promised a refund, nothing. Absolutely nothing. Only response: concerned department will respond.

What a life!


  1. Thank you very much my friend for your visit, good weekend with peace & happiness. Hugs Valter.

  2. Sorry Valter, I absolutely have no idea what visit you are referring to. However, thank you for the weekend wishes and may you too have a good one.

  3. :-)) The smiley, by the way, isn't for your experience with IRCTC.


  4. Thanks Suresh, though I do hope you will enlighten me about what the smiley is for :))

  5. Really expensive experience but i have no idea about this

  6. @irctc pnr status: the experience is troubling, to say the least.

  7. I am sure there is some problem in PNR Status website, when I check PNR Status of my ticket which I booked two days before from Hydrabad to New Delhi, it show me 6 waiting first day, and on next day it shows me 3. On the very day my ticket get confirmed but Its was shocking to me that all the seats are not given in the same bogy, I talked to many pessangers travelling with us and the told us that they have just booked ticket one day before and the TT confirmed the ticket. I have submit a online complaint related to my problem to the Consumer Court website but I don't think so there is some use to keep shouting in front of any Govt. body.

  8. Thank you softbranch for the empathy. Facts are truly stranger than fiction. I will admit that IRCTC and Indian Rail have got many things right, at the same time when an issue develops, they are simply not geared to sort it out. A bureaucratic setup unwilling to interact and resolve issues can never be a good thing. I too submitted complaints to IRCTC, and other sites, but nothing has worked out.

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