Now Book Railway Reservation through Simple SMS! – an IRCTC/CRIS initiative

A user’s guide, comparisons and limitations of the railway’s latest SMS based ticketing service targeting the mobile phone population

Indian Railways now provides enough options for you to avoid the queue at the booking counter. The latest is the SMS ticketing service which targets the 80 percent mobile phone population in India.

Railways has launched the service to book tickets through SMS on July 1. You do not need to download any app and do not even need a phone with internet connection. This is a smart move because only less than 5 percent of India owns a smart phone among the 80 percent who own mobile phones in India.

As with any new service, there are many questions and apprehensions regarding the service; there are a few pointers hence on how to book tickets using the SMS ticketing method.

There are two numbers through which people could book tickets through SMS: 139 and 5676714

Booking through 139

This is a simple process and involves two steps, sending the travel information (date of journey, number of passengers, train number) and getting a transaction id and paying for the ticket. Before getting on to booking your ticket with 139 on SMS, you need the following essentials:

  1. An IRCTC account for which you have to register at www.irctc.in
  2. A mobile number registered both with your bank and IRCTC. A registered mobile number is the one in the records with your bank and can also be used for your banking needs. This same number should be in the records of IRCTC else the SMS ticketing will return an error.
  3. A four-digit Mobile Money Identifier (MMID) code needed for the payment process. To register your bank account for MMID, choose your bank from a list <hyperlink ‘list’ to http://www.npci.org.in/bankmember.aspx> of 26 banks which offer this service.

You can click on the bank in the list which will direct you to bank site which explains the procedure for availing an MMID. For most banks, all one has to do is send one’s MMID followed by the last four digits of your account number from a registered account number to this number. The MMID is sent almost instantly.

Once armed with an IRCTC account, MMID and a registered mobile number, you are ready to book your ticket.

To start, SMS, BOOK <TravelDate(DDMM)> (upto 6 passengers) to 139 to book your ticket.

You will receive a message in the following format:

Transaction id, Ticket Amount, Service Charges, Total Amount Seat status. For Payment: SMS PAY IMPS IRCTCUserID to 139

Decoding the above message:

The customer will get a message with a unique transaction id of seven digits, the amount of the ticket, added service charge, total amount and the status of availability of seats. For payment, the format for SMS code to be sent to 139 will be as follows:

PAY IMPS IRCTCUserID

This where you need to get an OTP. OTP is one-time password provided by the banks for safe banking. Different banks have different procedures for OTP. For example, with ICICI Bank it can be requested by sending ‘OTP’ from a registered mobile number to a specific number provided by ICICI Bank. You can also request it on your registered email id.

Where TID is Transaction id.

IMPS is used when you want to use the mobile payment gateway to pay for the ticket.

OTP or one-time password

IRCTC User Id is your IRCTC user name.

Once your details are verified, your ticket will be booked and you will get a congratulatory message about your ticket booking.

Tickets can be cancelled by sending CAN followed by PNR number and IRCTC user ID to 139. This is for full cancellation. For partial cancellation, the customer needs to send CAN followed by PNR number, IRCTC user ID and passenger name and number.

Booking through 5676714

This method is a little different method of booking tickets. For this method too, the customer would need a mobile number registered with IRCTC and his/her bank account. Apart from IMPS, this also provides the facility to pay by ‘mWallet’ which is a mobile payment platform where payments can be made from an existing account known as ‘Zipcash’.

To register on ‘Zipcash’, all a customer needs to do is send ZIP to 56767 after which a login name and PIN number will be sent to the mobile phone number. You can recharge your Zipcash account online at https://www.zipcash.in/User/commands.html and pay through that when you book your ticket.

To start with the process, SMS START IRCTC user id to 5676714. This message again should be sent from a registered mobile number.

As a reply, the customer will receive the format for sending the SMS along with instructions for booking the ticket. One can get further clarifications by sending HELP to 56767.

The format is as follows:

BOOK Date of journey in DD/MM/YY format, Train number, class, passenger name, age, gender. This is valid for only four passengers.

If all the fields are entered correctly, the customer will receive the following reply:

As mentioned above, payment can be made through IMPS, which is the same as the payment method when ticket is booked through 139 or through MPAY. MPAY is the mobile wallet application through which payments can be made using Zipcash.

For payment, the following SMS needs to be sent to 5676714:

For IMPS method: Pay IMPS

For MPAY method: Pay MPAY

Instructions in both cases would be sent as a reply to the customer. In case of IMPS, customer will have to proceed with MMID and OTP received from the bank to complete the transaction, just as when using 139. Money would be deducted in one step in case of MPAY system where the customers use Zipcash to pay for the ticket.

Limitations

While both the methods provide an easy way to book tickets, you cannot book tickets under any quota and not between 8am and 12am. Everything is in English, which is again a limitation as the target population of mobile owners is not all English-speaking. Both the payment options need you to be under the umbrella of banked population which is also not true of all the people this service is targeting. Hopefully, such shortcomings will be taken care of once the system starts running and changes are made accordingly.

Comparison

In booking with both 139 and 5676714, the 139 method looked easier as it was just a two-step process. In booking with 5676714, the payment step was further divided into two more steps which looked complicated when compared with 139. Of course, 5676714 gives an option to book using Zipcash which will be an easier method for those who already have Zipcash accounts for making other payments. 139 also allows you to book tickets for six passengers in one go while 5676714 allows for only four.

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