The IRCTC site open at 7.55am and you think you are lucky, but at 8am  it logs you out and if you log back in takes forever to load. Reason: Issue of tatkal tickets has started and our beloved eTicketing agents have squatted and are in the process of booking the tickets in bulk. These tickets will later be sold at a premium. This is a great inconvenience for passengers who are seeking just two or three tickets. Well that is going to change and the passengers might actually be able to open the site and book the tickets for Tatkal. IRCTC has banned eTicketing agents (around 8 lakh of them) from using Tatkal facility between 8AM to 9AM.  Though the ban is only for an hour from 8AM-9AM, it will be very valuable for the passengers. 

You might be wondering what tatkal is: Tatkal is the Indian railways option to provide a way for the last-minute travelers to get into the train just in time by charging a premium. And before I forget it is one of the biggest rip-offs by Indian railways itself and probably the key driver for its profit.

Indian railways provides the cheapest option to travel. A 700km train ride would cost less than 400 rupees ($8.50). For the same distance a bus would charge 700 rupees, and could be as much as 1,000 rupees. A big saving, and the reason why there will always be great demand for train tickets. With the broadband penetration increasing the demand for train tickets, especially online, will only grow.

This ban comes after several complaints by the passengers. Just to give a perspective of what this means, IRCTC has sold 4.41 crore tickets in 2008-09 which are worth 3889 crore rupees or $832 million.  IRCTC accounts for a third of eCommerce in India and 30-35 percent of the train tickets booked are online.

This ban by IRCTC is temporary and if successful it can be a permanent solution. With the kind of demand Indian railways has, I don’t expect a drop in the sale of tickets. From 8am to 9am the sale would be steady and at 9 AM the sale surges as the agents would have logged in.

PS : In other totally unrelated news, Sri Lankan cricketer, Muttaih Muralitharan finally retires from test cricket.