Bookings take toll on IRCTC e-ticket service

Ever wondered why attempts to book a railway ticket online can be frustratingly long and most times impossible? The reason is because only 1,600 people can access the ticket booking option on the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) website at a time, and at times over 1 lakh individuals attempt to make online bookings at a time. Last month alone, over 35 lakh transactions were rejected due to the server being overloaded by attempts to gain access.

Left with limited options: Commuters wait their turn to book long-distance train tickets at a railway station. Representation Pic

The IRCTC’s online service for e-ticketing has been facing glitches as the website hangs or restarts due to overloading. Commuter Gayatri Mishra said that she faced an ordeal while booking a railway e-ticket.

“Last week I faced a horrible experience, as after filling the form for an e-ticket and depositing cash through the net banking option, the system restarted. I reopened the account to find that the fare had been deducted, but my e-ticket was not booked. When this happens, the amount is refunded after three days, but Rs 10 is deducted as service charge. After debiting the amount, at least we should get our e-ticket,” Mishra said.

According to Ketan Joshi, a slow functioning website is not a new phenomenon. “A hanging system or being blocked from logging on to the website is a regular occurrence while attempting to booking a ticket. Three days ago, I was struggling for almost two hours to book two tickets to Mumbai. It is better to go to the reservation counter instead of even attempting to make an online booking,” Joshi said.

When questioned, an official at the IRCTC call centre said that they were facing issues because of overloading as the server can handle only a limited number of applicants at any given time.  “The capacity of the server is 6 lakh per day and 1,600 people can access the website at a time. Currently over 10 lakh people book tickets online in a day. At this rate, it is impossible to cater to a huge demand. This leads to the website hanging, especially while issuing tickets,” said the official on condition of anonymity.

Senior IRCTC officials on the other hand said that increasing the server capacity would not solve the problem.  “No server can provide service to 1 lakh commuters at a time. We have received several complaints regarding the website, and our technical committee is trying to find a solution. Logging in with fake IDs is a major problem. Many unregistered agents book ticket by creating several IDs. In last month, we have deleted over 10 lakh fake Ids from the system. We are trying to develop a system to restrict anyone logging in with fake IDs,” said an IRCTC official.

Nilesh Bhansali, director, Agent Association, Pune said, “There no much of a margin for online railway tickets and commuters prefer to book ticket online tickets on their own. The railway authorities can decentralize the system. Fake IDs cannot be the sole reason behind the service failing.” 

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