Last week, Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) Connect announced that they had updated their app for online ticket-booking on India’s railways. The app relaunch (still named IRCTC Connect), has been downloaded 5,000 times in just one week. It allows users to search, book, cancel tickets and view a wide range of train routes and schedules at the touch of a button. Available for both iPhone and Andriod users, it is hoped that the app will ease the pressure at stations, reduce queuing times and make passenger experience more convenient and flexible. Before the updates were made, the app was popular with 58% of regular rail passengers so it can only be hoped that this percentage increases with the new improvements that have been delivered.
The Transport Minister Suresh Prabhu believes that this app demonstrates "the power of next-generation e-ticketing system with high performance and enhanced security." Before the app’s relaunch users were finding that they were not able to access a 24/7 service and there were continuous faults with website bookings that did not synchronise with ticket bookings. Since then, the app has addressed these issues along with introducing new features to improve security and data protection. This means that the user does not have to enter their PIN details, username or password when making a booking.
Another new feature of IRCTC Connect is that is has been linked to 40 banks so customers can make payments with internet banking and online wallets such as Paytm, PayU, Mobikwik and IRCTC. In the near future more online wallets like SBI Buddy will be integrated. Additionally, "the IRCTC Rail Connect will also be inter-connected with IRCTC AIR, Food on Track mobile apps to facilitate booking of air tickets and food through e-catering," according to Prabhu.
In summary app users will have access to:
- 24/7 service
- Synchronisation of mobile app with NGET for ticket booking
- Simple and easy user interface
- Cancellation and filing of TDR for tickets booked through website.
- Current booking
- Boarding point change
India’s railways are seeing huge changes across the whole network from the trains and the tracks to the passenger experience. The Lucknow metro will be in operation in less than a decade and talks have begun to discuss the next generation of maglev trains in India, along with a further 26 cities in India proposing to build high-capacity metro systems. So it is about time this efficiency was brought to ticketing. This also has benefits for the the operator which should increase ridership, improve efficiency and reduce operational costs.
IRCTC had already introduced smart ticketing six years ago along its network which meant tickets could be purchased online, by text and radio, but smartcards had not been as popular. It was thought that Chennai’s lack of access inter-network railways meant that smart ticketing had no real place in the market. But then two new initiatives were made that saw this change.
At the time, the previous Railway Minister, Mamata Banerjee, announced the introduction of a pilot scheme for a country-wide, multipurpose smartcard named 'Go India'. This was a single package which would allow passengers to seamlessly pay for tickets over a range of rail journeys from long distance to suburban metro journeys. The second scheme comes from Chennai itself, where a new GPRS-enabled ticketing system is poised to make significant improvements to the local bus service.
India’s digital advances and modernised railways in recent years means that the country's rail users can expect more seamless journeys avoiding the hassle of queuing, cancelling and booking tickets.
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