A TRAIN TRIP AT HOME
Ajay and Rashmi plan to go on a holiday to beat the heat. They want to visit Ooty and Munnar, two hill stations in the south. And they plan to stopover at Tirupati for a day to have a darshan of The Lord. Considering the places they plan to visit, there is no way they can fly. Trains form the most convinient mode of transport. And now lets see how they plan their trip.
The sun is beating down 42 degrees and to travel from their house in Khairtabad to the nearest Railway reservation counters at Begumpet/Nampally stations or HUDA complex Ameerpet through kilometres of bumper to bumper traffic seems to be more trouble than actually taking up the trip. So what do they do? Just Logon to the internet in the comfort of their home.
First thing, they decide is the route. Hyderabad > Tirupati > Ooty > Munnar > Hyderabad seems to be the most logical. Now to find out the trains from Hyderabad to Tirupati. Go to http://www.indianrail.gov.in/src_dest_trns.html and type in the station codes for Hyderabad and Tirupati and you get the list fo trains between Hyderabad/Secunderabad/Kacheguda and Tirupati, with the departure and arrival timings at both ends and class of accomodation available. (Dont know the station codes? Search from http://www.indianrail.gov.in/stn_code.html)
It seems that a late departure would suit Ajay and they shortlist the 2797 Kacheguda-Tirupati Venkatadri express which departs at 8PM. They select the train and the class of journey (AC 3-Tier) and the date of journey. Clicking on a button would get them the availability. Oops.. GNWL 18/ WL 16. Thats General Quota Wait List number 18, current status 16. (Quota codes: http://www.indianrail.gov.in/quotas.html) They do not want to take the risk of waiting in anticipation for confirmation. They would rather try another train. (They could also check the availability at http://www.indianrail.gov.in/acc_avl.html)
They hit the Back button of their browser. They find that 2764 Secunderabad-Tirupati Padmavathi express departs at 6.30Pm and that might also be okay with them. They check the availability and yahoo.. 14 seats available. Great. So thats going to be their mode of travel to Tirupati. Now, from Tirupati to Ooty. They know that Ooty only has a toy train and mainline trains end at Mettupalayam. They search for trains from Tirupati to Mettupalayam. None. But the website is smart. It shows trains to Coimbatore, which is not very far. But the timings dont seem to suit Rashmi’s liking. So they think of a change in plan. Why not do Munnar first and then Ooty? Fantastic.
They search for trains to Ernakulam (nearest railhead to Munnar). They find that 7230 Hyderabad-Trivandrum Sabari express departs Tirupati at around midnight. That suits them fine, as they would not need to book accomodation at Tirupati and also get a full day for darshan without any stress. They Check the availability and it says only 2 berths available. Rashmi kept thinking if that means there would be crowd at Munnar. Ajay explains that the quota at intermediate stations is less than at originating ones. Hence less number of berths.
So they immediately scoot over to www.irctc.co.in to book their tickets. It takes a minute to register free at the site. After logging in, one can do what has already been done by the couple using the ‘Plan my Travel’ option.
But now, Ajay has a set plan in mind. So he uses the Quickbook option to book the tickets. First he books the tickets from TPTY to ERN as only 2 berths were available. He enters the train number, origin and destination codes, date of journey, names of travellers and their berth options. he opts for side upper and lower. Enters his driving license number as an identification. Clicks on Book ticket. He also opts for an e-ticket (print out) and not an i-ticket (regular ticket couriered to you). The screen now shows him payment options. Ooh-la-la.. so many options… all credit cards and internet banking facility of almost all major PS and private banks.. wow! He opts for his SBI Netbanking as it does not charge him any transaction fee while a credit card would entail the regular 1.98% surcharge. ( SBI also has a SBI Rail Credit Card, which does not charge any surcharge). Ajay is directed to SBI’s site where he enters his netbanking password and confirms his payment. Voila.. his ticket is booked and he is directed to the print ticket page. Switch on the printer and your ticket is in his hands. Thats cool and easy. Ajay goes through a similar process and books his SC-TPTY tickets too. He gets his choice of Side Upper/Lower for the journey to Tirupati, but gets only one Lower and one Upper berths for the journey to ERN. Remember the low quota? Just for kicks, he rechecks the availability for TPTY-ERN by the same train. The status now is PQWL 1/ WL1. Thats Pooled Quota Wait List for intermediate stations. Hmmm..
Now he turns to book his tickets from Ernakulam to Coimbatore. Rashmi suggests, why not drop Ooty which gets overcrowded in the season and instead go to Goa. Ajay is impressed. A check shows that 6346 Nethravathi Express is a wonderful option to reach Madgaon. A check for the trains schedule at http://www.indianrail.gov.in/inet_trn_num.html shows that its perfect for him. However, the availability shows GNWL/3. A friend tells them that its not going to be a problem and it would get confirmed. Ajay goes through the booking process. He realises that the site does not allow e-tickets on waitlisted tickets. So, he opts for an i-ticket. Booking done, status is shown as GNWL 3,4. I-tickets take a maximum of about 4 days to reach you. Good. Ajay will now regularly keep a tab on the status by checking the PNR at http://www.indianrail.gov.in/pnr_stat.html
For the last leg from Goa to Hyderabad, he finds that there are slip coaches attached to the Vasco-Howrah Amaravathi express which get detached at Dhone and are attached to Yeswantpur-kacheguda express. Its a long journey via Hubli and Bellary, but apparently its a scenic route and the only one. A check on the availability shows Regret/No room. That means that booking has exceeded even the waitlist levels. Air Deccan charges 2000per head plus taxes, and hence they stick to the trains.
How? Tatkal Quota. (http://www.indianrail.gov.in/tatkal.html) This opens at 8AM 5 days before departure of train. For example, if you want to travel on 20th, booking opens at 8AM on 15th. Ok.. so Ajay will have to get this booking done at Munnar only. He would need to use his laptop or search for a cyber cafe.
On the day of departure, Ajay and Rashmi reached Secunderabad at about 6PM for taking the Padmavathi express. They went straight to AS1 coach looking at the electronic coach display. They had been alloted seats 15/16. However their names were missing from the reservation chart on the coach, instead some Abdul and Tareeq were mentioned against seats 15 and 16. There was a $ sign beside the numbers though. Now that means that you have been freely upgraded to a higher class. At the bottom of the chart, Ajay found their names in the Upgraded passengers list and now they were allotted berths 11 and 12 in coach A1, which is AC 2-tier. Wonderful, pay for 3-tier and travel 2-tier, that too at no extra cost! On A1, they found their names with a ! preceeding which meant they were upgraded.
…. Over to Munnar… the hotel does not offer internet facility and no cyber cafe opens at 8AM. And Ajay needs to book the ticket the next morning. What does he do? Simple. He calls his brother Vijay in Hyderabad, who also registers at irctc.co.in and logs in at 7.55Am the next morning, ready to book the ticket. Ajay has already
instructed Vijay about how to go about booking the ticket. At 8Am sharp, Vijay clicks on the Book Ticket option, uses his credit card option and books a confirmed ticket. (Tatkal tickets attract a premium of Rs 150 for Sleeper class and Rs 300 for AC). Vijay does not take a print of the ticket though. At 11AM, Ajay enters a cyber cafe at
Munnar, logs into Vijay’s account, goes to the Booked Tickets page, selects the Goa-KCG ticket and reprints the e-ticket after entering his licence number. Fantastic. Now Ajay has confirmed tickets in his hand.
Meanwhile, Rashmi’s sister Keerthi has been keeping a tab on her sister’s movements to check if the trains have been on time by going to http://www.trainenquiry.com/RunningIslTrSt.aspx?tr=XXXX&st=ZZZ+&dt=DD%2fMM%2fYYYY (XXXX is the train number, ZZZ the station and DD/MM/YYYY the date of journey). She can also check the train at all stations in its route just by going to http://www.trainenquiry.com/RunningTT_Display.aspx?drop_sel=XXXX&date=DD%2fMM%2fYYYY
She can tell Rashmi that she reached Tirupati 10 minutes before time, even though the train was 20 minutes late at Vijayawada. And that they reached Ernakulam about 35 minutes late. She also informs them that their ticket on the Nethravathi express has moved to RAC status and a couple of days prior to departure, it gets confirmed. Keerthi now regularly keeps a tab on all trains passing by her place in a day near Begumpet station by using http://www.trainenquiry.com/Arrival_Display.aspx?sel_val=ZZZ++&time=24
Keerthi also knows the fares of any trains between any stations and any class by checking http://www.indianrail.gov.in/fare_enq.html or for Rajdhani trains http://www.indianrail.gov.in/rajdhani fares.html and http://www.indianrail.gov.in/shatabadi fares.html for Shatabdi and http://www.indianrail.gov.in/Janshatabdi_fares.html for jan Shatabdi trains. She knows all reservation rules (http://www.indianrail.gov.in/resrules.html), refund and cancellation rules (http://www.indianrail.gov.in/refund_rules.html) and even the various booking counters in all parts of the country (http://www.indianrail.gov.in/bkgloc.html). Of course, she hardly uses them since booking over the internet is a fantastic option today!
And how does she remember so many links? Simple, she bookmarks them !