Booking tatkal tickets

Notwithstanding claims by Indian Railways and irctc, Tatkal booking is a nighmarish experience.  

Reducing the booking time from 2 days to 1 day prior to travel has made it impossible for people to plan an impromptu weekend trip, since they will still be travelling when booking starts for the return journey!  For instance, a couple of weeks back, I had to travel to Coimbatore on the weekend.  I was in the train on Saturday morning, but had to book Tatkal ticket for my return on Sunday evening.  I had no choice but to get it booked by my relative whom I was visiting. 

Coming to the booking process itself, try logging into IRCTC at 8 AM.  If you get the login page, and are able to enter the username and password, the subsequent page access will time out.  If you do get into the Plan your trip page, then the next one will be inaccessible.  It looks like OnDemand and Cloud computing are only for social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook and not for commercial sites!

To add insult to injury the "Quick Book" option is disabled for Tatkal as well, which means you have to navigate three pages where one would suffice - thrice the chances for network and other errors.

You see 60 seats available and by the time you come to the payment screen, it has become 6 seats.  By the time the payment is done and the ticket issued, you are now having waitlisted tatkal ticket.

Amazingly, there is no option in the site to not book a ticket unless you get a confirmation.  You have options not to book, if you do not get a berth of your choice, but why not an option not to book unless you have a confirmed seat?   The answer lies in the cancellation process.  You lose Rs.20/- for cancellation, plus the Rs.10/- service charge of the e-ticket, which is non-refundable, plus Rs.11.03, which most Banks charge for e-ticket booking - a total of Rs.41.03 loss for no fault of yours - you had pressed pay option when there were still 6 seats left!   The Banks and IRCTC gets to make money for doing nothing!

My relative went through the above experience and got a waitlisted tatkal ticket on one train.  He then tried another train and got a confirmed tatkal ticket.  As we began to watch during the day, the waitlist began to reduce, as people started cancelling their waitlisted tickets.  Now, there is no longer a refund on tatkal tickets - which meant, if my waitlisted ticket got confirmed, I would lose money on one of the tickets!  We ended up cancelling the waitlisted tatkal before it got confirmed, losing just Rs.41.03, instead of the entire ticket amount.

But why still persist with tatkal, instead of resorting to alternate means of travel?  The irony is the demand is so high for weekend travels (especially around festivals), that the prices of normal bus tickets are jacked up to exorbitant levels during this time.  For instance, the cost of a bus ticket from Coimbatore to Bangalore for 1st Jan night was Rs.850/- (in a fly-by-wire operator, whom I had never heard of).  With all its issues, tatkal still remains cheap as also  train travel comfortable.


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