Since it is confirmed to be working, I tried a hand at booking a ticket through IRCTC's new mobile website. And you know what? I actually booked a ticket! Oh yeah!! It went through without a hitch. This, considering the fact that even a trip to the tea shop will be wrought with obstacles for me. You can try it too, it is a breeze, though terms and conditions apply - If the IRCTC server chokes, the mobile site will probably choke too...
Please note: As said in the previous post, this website was probably not created to resolve the Tatkal crisis. All "IRCTC Rules" governing the desktop site will probably apply to this also. Note that this is not an application software, you do not have to download and install anything, just open the mobile internet website as you would do on a computer. The mobile version is also mobile-header locked, which means it WILL NOT open on a desktop browser. If you try to do, you will be redirected to the normal IRCTC site. Well, even if you could, it would be of no use because this site is just another interface or line to the same choked up IRCTC server. The mobile version does not have a server of its own. You would get just the same slow site that will not load.
For this to work, you will need:
- A mobile phone with a working data/internet (GPRS/3G) connection. If you do not have one, contact your operator.
- A web browser: Opera Mobile/Opera Mini is recommended. Access your mobile browser by clicking on the "web"/"internet" icon (usually a globe) which can be found somewhere in the "Menu" or "Applications".
- An active account with IRCTC. You cannot create an account on the mobile website.
- A VISA or MasterCard credit card or a debit card (ATM) for an internet enabled bank account. Or you must know someone who has one of these, ask them nicely.
How to book a railway ticket using IRCTC's mobile booking website
(Disclaimer: All logos, pages, symbols and pictures depicted here are exclusive copyright and owned by IRCTC and other copyright owners. These are depicted here for illustrative purposes only)
Once you have all the necessary hardware, open your mobile browser and type https://www.irctc.co.in/mobile in the address bar of the browser and click on the appropriate return key (go/enter/magnifying glass/Goto website), and hopefully you should get the login page. Enter your User ID and Password for your IRCTC account and press "Go" below, you will get the "Services" page welcoming you with your name and shows you how many tickets you have booked this month - A feature not available on the desktop site. The page offers only three services.
- Book Ticket/Enquiry - Where you can see the trains available, their routes, seat availability and you can book tickets.
- Booked History - Where you can see the booked tickets (Only those which are not traveled - up to 10)
- Cancel Tickets - Same as "Booked History" but there is an option for cancellation also.
Next comes the all important page. You can enter the source and destination station, date of journey (to be entered manually, no calendar popup), class of travel required (dropdown), type of quota (general, tatkal) and ticket type.
Click here for an explanatory illustration of the process. If you know the railway codes for your stations, you can directly enter those. It makes things easy as you can go directly to the next step (Image 3). Else, you will have to enter your destination station name and press "Get Code" for each station (Image 4), where you will be given an option to select your correct station (Image 5) and will be taken back to the page will station details filled in (Image 6). Examples for station codes: Bangalore City is SBC, Ernakulam Jn is ERS, Chennai Central is MAS, New Delhi is NDLS and so on. Click here to find the station code from the station name and vice versa for all stations in India from Wikipedia.
Choose your Train
Once you are done, press "Trains List" and you will be shown the list of trains for the class selected that run between the stations on your chosen day. There are three options given below the list: 'Book Ticket', 'Route' and 'Availability', you can check these before you book. The best part of these three options are that they are not popups like on the desktop site. If you find the status satisfactory, you can directly go ahead to booking from the 'Route' or 'Availability' pages and need not come back to the Trains List page. If you are not happy, there is a back link on each page which will take you back to the trains list page.
If you are happy, you can click on the "Continue Booking" link at the bottom of the page to book the ticket, no need to go back to the previous page. Else on "back" to go back and try another train. What the page does not show is an integrated list for availability for all trains. So if you are not particular about a specific train and need to know only where seats are available, you need to select each train and check in turn. It shows all the train details and availability for your chosen day of travel only and not for the next 5 days as on the desktop site.
The "Route" page shows all the stops of the train, arrival and departure timings and also allows you to change the boarding and destination stations I suppose. The page is a bit misaligned. Here also, you can 'Continue Booking' from this page itself without going back. But you need to go back to check availability.
Booking the Ticket - Selecting Passengers
After you click on the 'Book Ticket' link on the 'Trains List' page or on the 'Continue Booking' links, you will be taken to a page where you have to select/enter details of the passengers to travel. If you have a "master passenger list" saved (using the desktop site), details of those passengers will appear. If those passengers are traveling you can select those or else click on 'Add Passenger' and add details of the passenger(s) traveling. If you do not have a passenger list saved, the page will just show 'Add Passenger'. Use the link for adding passenger details as above. Once you are done, press "Continue" and you will be taken to the "Review" page.
Booking the Ticket - Review and Payment
The Review page will show all the details of the ticket, passenger, train, and amount, and an option to select the payment method (Currently only Citibank is available). Once you have confirmed everything is correct, press the "Continue" link and you will be taken to the Citibank payment page. In the entire process, this is the only page that is NOT mobile enabled, and will show the standard desktop page. This is the tricky part. The page rendered correctly on my phone, but I am not sure of how it will work for lower range phones with lesser sophisticated browsers. I had to pinch and zoom to enter the card details. But the remaining two pages, the "Verified by Visa" page and "Redirection" page were both mobile phone pages.
Congratulations, the ticket has been booked!
Booked History/Cancel Tickets
The Booked Tickets" and "Cancel Tickets" are essentially the same, with both displaying a list of booked tickets (untravelled only) and a maximum of ten tickets. If you had come from the "Booked Tickets" link, you will be just shown the ticket but if you had come from the "Cancel Tickets" link, you will get a check box and an option to cancel the ticket. The current PNR/Charting status are displayed as well.
If you clicked on "Booked History" and then on the PNR number in the list, the page above will not have the checkbox and the "Cancel Ticket" buttons, everything else will be quite the same. You can cancel tickets here booked through the website and vice versa.
That is about it. Mobile Internet and e-commerce seem to have finally arrived in India, as we all know anything to take off here has to have huge mass support. It would be interesting to know how much uptake and what percentage of transactions are conducted through this. Go on, have fun! And happy journey! Good luck with the Tatkal thing though.