Indian Railways has a long history that dates back to 1853 when the first train travelled from Bombay’s BoriBunder to Thane. The continuous development of technology and the eagerness to enhance consumer experience has led to what it is today; a revered train service that caters to customers in the remotest parts of the nation. Along with the number of trains, their speed and efficiency, there has been a vast development in the reservation system of IR. From providing top-notch services at minimal fare to fit the budget of all customers, IR ensures that the magical touch of technology has also hit this department. Nowadays, train ticket availability and ticket booking have become a menial task, due to internet services.
Evolution of the reservation system
- Ticket booking was manual until the late 1980s when the ball game changed. In 1982, freight operations were computerised by setting up a central organization called COFOIS.
- Stand-alone computerized reservations and ticket booking were introduced in various cities such as Delhi (1985), Bombay (1987), Chennai (1987), Kolkata (1987), and Secunderabad (1989).
- These cities became PRS centres, and new software called CONCERT (Country-wide Network for Computerized Enhanced Reservation and Ticketing), which was developed by CRIS, was installed.
- CONCERT brought about a radical shift from manual ticketing to computerized solutions for the existing Indian Passenger Reservation System.
- 1998 and 1999 brought about coupon validating machines and credit card acceptance for bookings respectively.
- IRCTC introduced booking over the internet in 2002 and it became a full-fledged service by 2005.
- The Next-Gen E-ticketing system was launched in 2014 by IRCTC.
The effects of technology on the reservation system
- Passenger Reservation– CRIS has been given the huge task of creating and maintaining software and hardware for the Indian Railway Reservation System. The creation and allotment of Passenger Reservation System (PRS) to store and process passenger information during bookings has made the booking process easier. CONCERT is the world’s largest online reservation application. 2.2 million commuters benefit from this application software daily.
- Unreserved ticketing system– Earlier launched by IR to handle unreserved ticket bookings at Northern Railways, UTS handles 90% daily ticket sales in more than 6000 locations today. UTS aids in managing unreserved travel data and ensures ticket availability.
- Freight Operation Information System– the management structure developed for revenue, billing, and overall supervision of freight train operations is called FOIS. The revenue obtained exceeds 205 crores from 2000 E-payment bills and receipts daily. This management model enables smooth functioning of 10,000 locomotives 2,50,000 wagons and 3,500 freight trains.
- Integrated Coach Management System– The designate trains are built when 50,000 passenger coaches form the assigned composition. Thus, a management model is required for this purpose and it has 3 sub-systems: Punctuality Analysis and Monitoring (PAM), Coaching Operations Information System (COIS), and Coach Maintenance Management (CMM).
Digitalisation has brought about several changes in the reservation system. Scalability, accessibility, and performance have drastically increased as a product of digitalisation in IR. However, there are a few disadvantages that are still prevalent. Competition on the grounds of cost, comfort, and convenience with airline services still lurk around the corner.