IRCTC  has launched virtual tickets with the Virtual Reservation Message (VRM), making a marked shift – the physical tickets (and printouts) will no longer be mandatory to travel in the Indian Railways. It had earlier been accepting the Electronic Reservation Slip (ERS), which is a printed version of the ticket with reservation details.

In comparison, the VRM is essentially a screen shot of the e-ticket that can be displayed on laptops, mobile and other devices. VRM combined with valid photo-id in original will be be the same as an ERS, and the ticket collector uses the VRM to validate the booking number, and the travellers ID to validate his identity.

The switch from physical to virtual tickets is an interesting one, since there was a time, initially, when ticket collectors themselves did not accept the ERM/printouts. We hope that they’ve been adequately informed about the ERS and VRM, else consumers will face issues. This is a good move, since it reduces dependency on paper, and is far more convenient since one can now book tickets virtually – say, on the mobile – and not have to run around looking for somewhere to get a printout.

On the other hand, we’re not sure why one would need to even keep a VRM/screenshot to validate the booking/reservation. Shouldn’t a booking ID or PNR number be sufficient?

IRCTC has reported 13.2 million online rail ticket transactions for August 2011 although only 75.93% were  successful transactions.