Online Travel Agent Cleartrip is planning to launch Railway ticketing today according to LiveMint, thus becoming only the second OTA to offer the service after Thomas Cook. The launch isn’t surprising, since Cleartrip was among the first OTAs to launch a Railway ticket search earlier this year, sans the booking capability. I just gave it another go, and they haven’t allowed users to book tickets just yet. We’ve written to Cleartrip for a confirmation that the launch is planned for today. Not unexpectedly, MakeMyTrip, Yatra and Ezeego1 also plan to start rail bookings.

Cleartrip co-founder Hrush Bhatt offers some insight on the margins – which are around Rs. 30-35. While that is low, it’s still better than the 0 percent commission that the Airlines will be enforcing by the 1st of November. That said, crude oil prices fell below $92 to the barrel yesterday, down from a high of over $140. It’s too early to tell – the fall was rather drastic, so might recover, but if Aviation Turbine Fuel (ATF) drops as well, one just might see Airlines go back on their plans. At least the agents (both online and offline) will now have a case for a commission.

Over the next few months, we’ll track the impact of the increase in online outlets offering Rail ticketing on the IRCTC numbers. Some details for July and August:

IRCTC Payment Trends for July and August 2008

Much more here.

Other Developments in the Travel Space

— Zoomtra Goes International: Smile Interactive promoted travel meta-search engine Zoomtra has launched international flight ticketing. They’ll also be launching specific portals targeting inbound traffic from Singapore, US, UK and Canada. Details in the release here.

— Ixigo Adds Bus Services: Another travel meta search engine, Ixigo, has launched bus ticketing services covering 500 towns and 2300 routes. Details in the release here.

Cleartrip Promotes Crighton To CEO; Lays Off 42
IRCTC Does $102 Million In Online Transactions In August; Payment Trends
Yatra Launches In US, UK; Impact Of Zero Percent Commissions