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Visiting a Railway Reservation Centre after 18 years: Full experience

I'm thankful to IRCTC for letting me get back to doing a reservation the old way and reliving the good ol' times.

BHPian vigsom recently shared this with other enthusiasts.

Introduction

Brick and mortar setups rarely need to be visited these days, what with everything going online. I've also fallen in line, but sometimes circumstances make one follow the path less travelled.

This is an account of my surprise visit and experience at an unfrequented place today - an Indian Railways Reservation Center, after close to eighteen years. I am sure folks reading this will be able to revel in this experience and relive the good old times!

Planning a trip to Gadag

02-Aug-2022

I am scheduled to make a trip to Gadag in Karnataka sometime this month and was looking for a suitable mode of transport from Bengaluru to Gadag. My preference was a train, and sure enough, I found a few of them. Shortlisted 16592 Hampi Express from Bengaluru to Gadag since it was a convenient evening departure with a morning arrival; found that the waitlist from KSR Bengaluru was RLWL which meant a remote location and thus a low chance of the ticket getting confirmed. Tracked the train back, and it was showing accommodation available in AC 2 Tier from Kengeri, just one station ahead. I went ahead, casually logged in to IRCTC, keyed in all details, paid the money, and this is what I encountered. This was at approx. 2250hrs on August 2nd.

Error Code

I said, "Okay, this must be one of those instances when the payment gateway - IRCTC link decided to take a break!" Went ahead and tried again - same result. I decided to stop and try again the next day.

03-Aug-2022

  1. Tried the same route, with the same card, but the end result was the same.
  2. Thinking that this might have been an issue with my bank's card, I tried using another ID and another card - the same result.
  3. Another gateway - another card - same result.
  4. Tried again after three hours with my ID and my card - same result.

Error Again

Meanwhile, I booked another ticket on another train and it went through without fuss. By now, after a total of six tries, almost INR6600 had been debited with no ticket in hand. Escalated the issue to IRCTC with specific information, including the error code, and got an expected vague reply that the tickets were not booked due to a delay in remittance of the money by the payment gateway.

The vague or rather standard reply

Planning a trip to Gadag (Contd.)

04-Aug-2022

Since I had never faced an issue of so many false starts, I had started imagining a whole lot of things and had actually even gotten scared to login to IRCTC :

  • Is there an issue with my account?
  • Is there an issue with my card?
  • Has my IRCTC account gotten into some roadblock?

I decided to let the debited money first come back, but meanwhile, had to do something to get myself a ticket via the least risk route, else available berths would all be gone on other trains.

How did I decide on the Reservation Center option?

While returning from work, I thought that the best way to eliminate my thoughts shared above was to get to a Railway Reservation Center and then see what was going on. Checked that I had enough moolah in my purse, and after getting off the car, made a dash to the Reservation Center.

Entering the Reservation "Lounge" after eighteen years

What a feeling it was - I have spent up to three and a half hours in every single visit to reservation centres in the 80s, 90s and even early 2000s until I registered on IRCTC. The scene used to be particularly bad in Western and Northern India. Those days, we'd find touts getting into the queues out of turn, reservation clerks booking via forms handed to them in advance, and with "advance", fights among people in the queue, systems hanging, and so on. It used to be like a mela those days. Getting a confirmed ticket in hand and exiting the Center was equivalent to winning an Olympic Gold!

My experience at the Reservation Center this evening

There was no crowd - as we can see in the pic below, no more than two people at any counter. I went in, asked for a form, and found that it had barely changed. Filled it out like a memory recall from the 2000s, handed it in at one of the counters, told the Reservation Officer there that I was coming to a Center after 18 years, and he was all smiling.

He keyed in all details into the system at lightning speed, with pain in his mouth, and I was waiting with bated breath, hoping that the reservation wouldn't go through -and Lo and Behold, it didn't go through! He tried again, but the end result was the same. He then called out to the Chief Reservation Supervisor apprising him of this issue, by when I had also told him that I'd come visiting because of those six failed attempts. Realising that this was some issue with the particular train/ station, I decided to try another train which I had already kept on the shortlist, and I managed the last confirmed berth on that option.

Ticket in hand, no service charges, I left the place relieved. The surprise here was that I got a text message like how one would get on booking via IRCTC. This wasn't there in the 2000s.

The Air-conditioned Reservation Lounge - saw folks seated there only to cool off.

Reservation Form - just a few changes

Ticket in hand

Couldn't I have gone back home and booked via IRCTC on another train?

Absolutely yes, but a bird in hand is worth two in the bush. Having seen a string of failures in two days, I decided to end the saga here. Who knows - maybe IRCTC would throw up some new issue after I returned. When luck isn't on one's side, it is better to try the least risky option.

Summing it up

Although I was kind of upset with the turn of events the day before yesterday and yesterday, I'm thankful to IRCTC for letting me get back to doing a reservation the old way and reliving the good ol' times.

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