In a move to make Indian train ticketing and travel even more convenient for the passengers, the ministry of railways has decided to permit Short Messaging Service (SMS) sent by the Indian Railways Catering & Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), as an instrument on par with the Electronic Reservation Slip (ERS).
This basically means that now passengers won't have to take printouts of the e-ticket nor need to have a smartphone to display virtual reservation messages (VRM) while travelling. An authorized SMS when displayed through laptops/palmtops/mobile phones combined with valid photo-id in original will suffice.
The SMS will contain vital details like PNR, train number, date of journey, class, name and number of passengers, coach and seat number and fare paid and if feasible, will also accommodate the names of all the passengers booked on the e-ticket (if not all then the maximum number of passengers). The initiative has already come into effect from the 1st of this month.
The SMS will have to be displayed during the course of on-board/off-board checking and if the passenger fails to produce/display it due to any eventuality (loss, discharged mobile/laptop etc), but has the prescribed proof of identity, a penalty of Rs 50 per ticket which is applicable to such cases will be levied.
Indian Railways has also provided a list of valid proofs of identity that have to be produced in original during the course of on-board and off-board checking that include voter photo identity card; passport; PAN card; driving licence; photo identity card having serial number issued by central/state government; student identity card with photograph issued by recognized school/college for their students; nationalized bank passbook with photograph and credit cards issued by banks with laminated photograph.
Additionally, the unique identification card will also be considered a valid ID proof.
Earlier, Indian Railways had decided that a screen shot of the e-ticket displayed through laptops/Tablets/mobile phones (referred to as VRM and the mobile reservation message (MRM) for tickets booked on mobile phones) combined with a valid photo-id proof would work as an instrument on par with the ERS. This was seen as a revolutionary step since passengers would no longer have to carry physical tickets or ERS with them while travelling on trains. They had also launched mobile ticket booking application that enables users to book their railway tickets through their mobile phones.
Net, the new move will make it more mobile friendly to travel on trains. Given that more than half of the country is connected through a mobile connection as against just a fraction of mobile users with Internet enabled phones, the latest initiative will have the biggest impact in bringing user friendly mode of ticketing for the consumer. Even as VRM and MRM was also a step forward in taking train ticketing to a paperless world, they required a Web connected device.
The new service makes it device agnostic as all mobile handsets come with SMS feature, including low end basic handsets.
What we wonder is whether the authorities have communicated the same to all their ticket collectors. Else users who may want to try out the new digital ticketing solution might find themselves fined for not sticking to the old world.