When you buy a train ticket online, you cannot upgrade it on the train, not even if berths are going empty!

10 NOV 2014


   While planning an urgent Chennai-to-Rameshwaram train journey I had to buy a 3rd AC RAC ticket since 2nd AC tickets were available only on a wait-listed basis. When I boarded the train I saw that a few vacant berths were indeed available in the 2nd AC coach. I therefore requested the TTE (Train Ticket Examiner) to upgrade my 3rd AC ticket to 2nd AC; I was of course prepared to pay the fare difference. The TTE informed me that an e-ticket cannot be upgraded on the train. He was only authorised to upgrade tickets which had not been bought online. He said that he did not know why this rule exists; he only knew that it exists.

So, several berths on the train went empty, and the Indian Railways lost valuable revenue. Also, some person was deprived of the 3rd AC berth which would have become available if my 3rd AC ticket had been upgraded. I am quite sure that this is not an isolated incident. Hundreds of TTEs must have been confronted by this situation thousands of times, and our government must by now have lost sizeable sums of money.

Who is responsible for this? Some ‘wise’ persons in the computerisation wing of Indian Railways? The TTEs who do not provide the feed back to their bosses? The bosses who ignore the feedback? Or, to repeat a cliché, are we Indians like that only?

For all you know, most TTEs may even be happy that such a stupid problem exists, because they can make a small fortune by selling these vacant berths ‘offline’ to passengers who are willing to pay a suitable bribe for unofficial receipt-less upgradation.

What sense does it make for the government to lose revenue for such incredibly stupid reasons?

Throughout India, in almost every government department, citizens find it terribly inconvenient to pay to the government what is legally due to the government. Whether it is income tax, service tax, excise, municipal taxes or electricity bills, hundreds of barriers are erected to prevent us from paying our dues conveniently and quickly. Sometimes, we are even compelled to pay ‘below the table’ for money to be accepted ‘above the table’.

There may be some reasons – no doubt unethical – for people to bribe in order to receive benefits from the government, but what earthly – or unearthly – reason can there be for people to bribe in order to give benefits to the government?

Getting back to the e-ticket up-gradation problem, here is an amateurish suggestion which may help in many other ways too:

1. Give a handy tablet to the TTE so that he can upgrade any ticket, calculate the fare difference, and record the receipt of the cash received.

2. The tablet will enable the TTE to instantly know the availability of berths throughout the train, and quickly allot them to RAC passengers.

3. The TTE will be able to inform, online, booking counters at other stations along the train’s route so that wait-listed passengers at those stations can also be accommodated.

Some such system will immensely benefit passengers and ensure that there is optimum occupancy of the train’s capacity. Win-win situation, since both passengers and the Indian Railways benefit. And, to ensure that any errant TTE is compensated for any loss of bribe money, TTEs may be given a bonus proportional to the ‘on-train ticket up-gradation revenue’. As a necessary precautionary measure, all empty berths should be compulsorily logged on the tablet.

To develop a workable system, Indian Railways should rope in the help of 10 to 15 TTEs, depute them to brief some of our fancy IT companies, and then ask these companies to develop ticketing solutions which optimise train capacity utilisation, penalise reservation staff and TTEs for unsold berths and seats and reward them for sold berths and seats. This, or some simple variation of it, can be made to work so that the Indian Railways can become a more viable enterprise.

Either you develop a solution as suggested above or least, stop such a stupid rule as “ e-tickets cannot be upgraded” from getting implemented, as a first step, effective immediately.

Solve the ticketing problem, and a lot of important problems will automatically get sorted out. The Indian Railways is by and large a great public sector company which is often compelled to subsidise many services. It cannot afford to subsidise stupidity too and facilitate corruption.

One affected Indian Bakra/bakri in the service of the people of India.

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37 Comment(s) 8526 views

AlbertSkeld Says,   8/8/2018 9:25:06 AM

Judi Says,   5/11/2018 10:51:06 PM
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