Trains. The workhorses of the Indian travel scene. Catering to the poorest of the poor and the richest of the rich alike. I have always had a fascination for trains. As a kid, an opportunity to go to the railway station was always exciting times for me. More than the travel, what I loved was to simply sit at the platform and read the name boards on the trains and be at awe at all the mystical sounding places from where these trains were coming.
As I grew older and when fairy tales became reality and train journeys became a routine, the difficulties of train travel began to eat away the special place I had for trains in my heart. From standing in long queues to get tickets to buying food from random hawkers, I will admit, it wasn’t pretty.
Then India, entered the internet age and so did the Indian Railways and IRCTC was born. It completely revolutionized the ticket booking experience. I no longer had to wake up at 5 in the morning and stand in line at a reservation counter. I can do everything in the comforts of my couch!
Like any new service, IRCTC too fumbled and stumbled from time to time, but I always felt that it never received the credit it deserved. Yes I remember the times when I felt it was easier to crack IIT than to book a tatkal ticket but when you imagine the sheer number of people trying to use a service all at the same time, it is a miracle their servers didn’t explode (or did they??)!
Fast-forward to 2015, IRCTC has come a long way. The service is much more robust and efficient, to the point that I can be fairly certain of booking a tatkal ticket without seeing the dreaded “Service Unavailable” message. Not just that, the introduction of Premium tatkal is a brilliant innovation, which gives passengers like me a chance to buy a ticket – even if I have to spend a few extra bucks, it’s still at an affordable price.
With online ticketing being such a major function, people often overlook the ‘Catering and Tourism’ part of IRCTC (which stands for Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation). Although, with all vendors contracted through IRCTC, the quality of food and beverage service has come leaps and bounds in terms of quality and hygiene, I was pleasantly surprised at the online meal booking option. So during a recent trip to my hometown, I booked a meal to do a “test run” of the system and I must say the service passed with flying colors. The meal was not only delivered to my seat but I also got a call from IRCTC customer care to confirm if I received it.
As a “train-junkie” I always look forward to my next train journey. And I would rather prefer a convenient way to book my train tickets, especially if it’s from the comfort of my home.