The Railway Ministry has announced that from 15 February 2016, individual users will be able to book only 6 train tickets online per month on the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation Limited (IRCTC) website. Before this, individual users could book a maximum of 10 tickets per month.
The existing rule of getting to book 2 Tatkal tickets between 10AM and 12PM in a day and 2 advance reservation period (ARP) tickets between 8AM-10AM in a day will be stayed. The Ministry said that this step was taken after it noticed that 90% of users were booking upto 6 tickets every month, while only 10% were booking more than 6 tickets, and which the Ministry also suspects as touts. It feels that the new rule as such will discourage touts from hogging tickets.
Readers would note that in March last year, IRCTC implemented a new rule allowing only one ticket booking per user in one login session between 8AM and 12PM. It said that this move would help reduce the number of transactions made by the agents and like, as they would need to login after each transaction. Additionally, in April, it also introduced 9 more rules including disabling the quick book option, disallowing ticket agents to book from 8AM to 8:30AM among other hours for tatkal, no mobile wallet or cash cards payment from 8AM to 12PM etc.
MediaNama’s take: The new rule is kind of restrictive, but also surprising because supposedly 90% of IRCTC users book only 6 tickets every month. Users looking to book for families or multiple friends will effectively have to use different logins to book more than 6 tickets. In April, the IRCTC had implemented a rule which let individuals book 2 tatkal tickets per IP address from 8AM to 12PM. However, as of now, there’s no update or information on this. So, let’s say a standard family of 4 won’t be able to book a round trip without having at least 2 accounts, leading to a spurt in the number of double account holders.
IRCTC food tie ups: However, not everything is all gloom and doom. To make up for the inconvenient booking experience, IRCTC has been tying up with multiple food delivery companies to let users order food while on the go, as well at train stations. This month, it tied up with TravelKhana, who it had incidentally sued last month for copyright infringement; and Hello Curry in November, Foodpanda in the same month, and earlier in 2015 with Pizza Hut and KFC and Jubilant Foodworks.
Online ticketing revenue: In November, we reported that the 18 year old IRCTC generated Rs 20,620 crore (~ $3.08 billion) in online ticketing with a profit after tax of Rs 130 crore ($19.5 million) from March 2014- March 2015. This was up 34% from 2014, when its revenue was Rs 15,410 crore ($2.3 billion), and a profit of Rs 72 crore ($10.8 million).
Our IRCTC coverage here.