Booking train tickets used to be a major chore, but the IRCTC website has steadily improved the experience. One of the problems with booking online is that it also requires an online payment - either with a credit or debit card, or net-banking. In February, IRCTC also launched a cash-on-delivery pilot program.
To do this, you need to download the IRCTC - BookMyTrain app. Passengers can book train tickets online and get them delivered by selecting cash on delivery mode. The app is great for people who don't have a credit or debit card, or are not comfortable with online banking or payment done via e-wallet. The app is available on all major platforms, Android, iOS, Windows Phone and Blackberry.
The service has been launched for a pilot trial first across 200 cities and towns, and according to the company that made the app, it will be expanded to 700 cities by August. The tickets are generally delivered within the shortest time possible, with a maximum delivery time of hours.
You need an IRCTC account to use the app, and once you log-in with the IRCTC credentials, you can use it to book train tickets. You can buy tickets, look at your booking history, or cancel a ticket and ask for a refund through the app.
To book a ticket, you need to enter the origin and destination stations, and then choose the ticket quota (general, ladies or tatkal) and the travel dates. The app's use is currently restricted and can't be used for tatkal bookings though this will change by August too.
Like the IRCTC website, the BookMyTrain app also shows a list of trains, with their number and timings, and when you select a train, it asks you to choose what class of ticket you want. Finally, it shows you the availability of tickets and allows you to book. Until this point, the BookMyTrain experience is the same as using IRCTC.
However, after entering all the relevant details, in the payment mode, you can select Cash-on-Delivery in the BookMyTrain app. When you select cash on delivery, you just enter the address for the tickets to be delivered to. You can also save addresses in the app and select one from a list. After that, you just confirm a booking, and wait for your tickets.
There are a couple of things you need to know. For one, cash on delivery mode cannot be selected if departure is within the next five days. Secondly, delivery charges are Rs 40 + service tax for sleeper class, and Rs 60 for AC Class tickets. That might be a deterrent for some users. Finally, refunds can only be done if you have a bank account - in the user profile, you need to enter your NEFT details. You can give someone else's account details if you want, this is the only way to get a refund for a cancelled ticket.
Another cool feature in the app is the Passenger List tab. You can create a list of up to six passengers - this is useful if you frequently book tickets for yourself and your spouse, or perhaps your parents. Instead of typing in each traveller's details, you can just select them from a list when making a booking.
Aside from cash on delivery, this app is not a huge upgrade over the IRCTC app, but that alone could be a big reason to use BookMyTrain for many users. Personally though, we wish the IRCTC would just integrate the feature into its own app, instead of requiring people to download multiple apps just to access specific features.