Almost 50 per cent opt for e-tickets; smaller cities too become Net savvy

Mamuni Das

The scenario

For the

first two months of the current fiscal, sales have more than doubled against the same period last year.

In April

2006, 4.04 lakh passengers resorted to the Net avoiding long winding queues.

New Delhi, June 18

The Railway's initiative to sell tickets to passengers through the Web has caught on well, with the service registering about 100 per cent growth rates.

For the first two months of the current fiscal, sales have more than doubled against the same period last year. In May 2006, about 3.97 lakh passengers used the Net to book their tickets against 1.81 lakh in May 2005. Similarly, in April 2006, 4.04 lakh passengers resorted to the Net avoiding the long winding queues against 1.95 lakh in April last year.

The trend was reflected in 2005-06, with ticket sales through the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) Web site registering over 100 per cent growth over the previous fiscal. "The total ticket sales through the Internet in 2005-06 was 25.73 lakh compared to 12.81 lakh in 2004-05. In 2003-04, it was at 7.28 lakh," Mr Amitabh Pandey, Group General Manager (IT Services), IRCTC told

Business Line

.

The growth story is not limited to the metros the country cousins are turning techie as well. "Share of smaller cities has been going up very fast, even though Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore and Chennai continue to account for the highest shares," Mr Pandey said.

For instance, in March 2005, about 35 per cent of Internet bookings were from `other cities' (except Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore and Chennai). But in March 2006, passengers from the non-metros had grabbed a 52 per cent share. IRCTC delivers tickets in about 200 cities.

Advantage common man

The common man reaps significant benefit from this service as low-cost tickets account for a majority share of the sales. The non-AC tickets have the biggest slice (53 per cent); followed by AC chair car and AC III tier travellers, together clicking 34 per cent of bookings. The high-end passengers (AC-I and AC-II) book only 13 per cent of the Web-based tickets, said Mr Pandey.

E-ticketing

Within four months of a countrywide launch, almost 50 per cent of the passengers, who book their tickets using the Internet, opted for e-tickets. E-ticketing allows passengers to take a printout of the ticket at their own end and travel with it. The rest of the passengers book the ticket on the Net, but IRCTC takes the printout and couriers it to the passengers within 2-3 days of booking. E-tickets appear to be driven by ease, cheaper price (by Rs 15 for non-AC classes and Rs 20 for AC classes) and increased access to printers.

Towards February end this year, Railways launched the e-ticketing initiative for all those trains, for which reserved tickets can be issued. "Soon after, in April, e-tickets accounted for 31 per cent of 4.04 lakh tickets booked through the Internet and the share of e-tickets in May went up to 38 per cent of total 3.97 lakh tickets booked on the Net," Mr Pandey said. Based on the bookings done this month till about two days ago, e-tickets are accounting for as high as 45-50 per cent of the total Web-based ticket sales.

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(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated June 19, 2006)
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