New rules for Tatkal Ticket Booking – a review

Indian Railways is showing us that it is dealing effectively with malpractices in ticket booking and is making efforts to reduce the hardship people face while booking tickets.
In a effort to reduce the hardship Railways has changed the way we book our Tatkal tickets. Instead of opening the tatkal tickets along with the normal booking at 8AM it is now being opened at 10AM. Idea behind – reduce the load on the servers at 8AM by splitting the demand – this way regular ticket bookers can start fighting it out at 8AM while people looking to book Tatkal ticket will wait till 10AM to book their tickets.

On the face value, this looks like a good initiative, but I see some illogical factors in this new way:
1) Since the time online ticketing became popular everybody knows that it is just a matter of minutes that tickets get filled up. Given this scenario, tatkal ticket bookers at the counters tend to loose out – the queue is already there by 8AM and now these people are “inserted” in the queue at 10AM, given the limited no. of tatkal tickets tickets will be over even before some of the people in queue get their turn – online ticket bookers have an advantage over the people who go to counters to book their ticket.
2) At the counters, when tatkal ticket bookers are allowed to start booking their tatkal tickets @ 10AM, there is a pause for the regular ticket bookers who are already in the queue. this again does not happen in the case of online ticket bookers. So again people going to the counters are loosing out.

A simple solution for this would be to have the tatkal ticket booking at 8AM and start the normal ticketing at 8:20AM or 8:30AM. This way everybody – online or at counters – get equal chance of booking and this does not cause

Railways has not tackled the real problem – the nexus of agents cornering tickets. It is ironical that they are able to book tickets when normal person is not even able to login to the website during strong demand…
One of the first things Railways must do it to be more transparent – be it monitoring agents at the booking counters or monitoring online ticket booking.
1) Having video cameras at booking counters and monitoring the person who is coming to book can easily help identify agents and track the tickets they book.
2) Better vigilance and proper verification of tickets by TTEs will ensure that frauds are minimised.
3) Monitoring login IDs, Personal Contact Details and booking history will also help in identifying agents – typically agents have multiple logins as normal persons to book as many tickets as possible.
4) Finally the nexus between agents and officials has to be broken – occasional audits by public will go a long way in bringing in transparency in the system.
5) Finally increasing trains or train capacity on high demand routes will help in the long run. Adding coaches to existing trains, using double decker  coaches will increase the capacity. Identifying new routes that will be serve passengers well and earn revenue is another important factor. New line must be logical – e.g. a line connecting Tiruvannamalai to Tindivanam is uncalled for considering Tiruvannamalai is already connected to Villupuram. It would be better if Tiruvannamalai is connected to the Tiruppattur – it would provide a link between Pondicherry & Bangalore – by laying about 80KMs of track you connect 300KMs.