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Monday, July 15, 2013

Simple ways of booking Train ticket by SMS and mobile - Railways make it happen

One just loves to travel by train – despite the fact that getting a ticket is not easy; many a times it is not clean…. … it could run late – yet ~ the largest employer in India – Indian Railways continues to fascinate.  It transports millions across the Nation and has come a long way since 1853 when the first train ran from Bombay to Thane. Railways has been keeping pace with the modern developments including modernization of rolling stock, signalling,  stations and terminals; safety and more.

The most perceptible one is the way people buy tickets for travel. You need to go back in history to appreciate this.  Earlier days there was no connectivity and each station had its quota ~ booking a return ticket was so cumbersome. Then in 1980s came the computerization – a great facility, you could stand in that big ticket booking complex in Central [later in 6 places in city] ~ ‘any counter – any place – any class of ticket’ was a great hit – though one had to stand for hours in serpentine queues. It functioned from 8 am to 8 pm, if I remember aright.

The most often asked Q in those days to any travellers [by concerned parents and others] was ‘have you taken the ticket with you ?’ – some would forget and rush back to take the ticket and travel………… those days of physical tickets….  E-ticketing through IRCTC website,, revolutionized the way the common man deals with the railways and has been the biggest success story of e-governance in India.  Travelling public were relived that they can have multiple printouts and need not worry too much of that missing ticket…… one can even take printout from an internet kiosk anywhere……….. later, Railways introduced the facility of travelling with just confirmation of booking in one’s mobile [SMS / image of ticket would do !!!]  ~ great innovation indeed.

‘Change is only constant’………….. and in keeping tune with the modern technology where mobile market is exploding exponentially, IRCTC has now launched two other modes of ticket booking : SMS and USSD... and you don`t need an Internet connection in your mobile for this. The pre-requisite for using the IRCTCmobile is :
The pre-requisites for using the IRCTCmobile are:
•        You need to be a IRCTC user
•        Have a Java enabled mobile phone or a smart phone
•        Have GPRS service activated on your mobile phone
•        Have a credit card/cash card.
~ and this service will not work for CDMA mobile users

In case you are wondering what USSD is :  Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) is a protocol used by GSM cellular telephones to communicate with the service provider's computers. USSD can be used for WAP browsing, prepaid callback service, mobile-money services, location-based content services, menu-based information services, and as part of configuring the phone on the network. USSD messages are up to 182 alphanumeric characters in length. Unlike Short Message Service (SMS) messages, USSD messages create a real-time connection during a USSD session. The connection remains open, allowing a two-way exchange of a sequence of data. This makes USSD more responsive than services that use SMS. Typically, the user composes a message on the phone keyboard. The phone sends it to the phone company network, where it is received by a computer dedicated to USSD. The answer from this computer is sent back to the phone. The answer could be seen on the phone screen, but it is usually with a very basic presentation. The messages sent over USSD are not defined by any standardization body, so each network operator can implement whatever it finds suitable for its customers.

Now here is how it is going to work for you :  The one introduced by IRCTC is a  non-internet based ticketing system. One can use their mobile phones to book tickets in a simple, convenient and secured manner. It uses simple SMS or menu-based USSD technology which works on all mobile phones and involves no internet and costs very little.

Railway e-ticket on mobile :

1. USSD based booking through Airtel*
•        Register for Airtel money by dialing USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Services Data) number *400#.
•        Load cash on this or recharge from any Airtel money outlet.
Booking Flow
•        Dial *400# and select book tickets option.
•        Select Reservation.
•        Enter your IRCTC User ID.
•        Enter the details of ticket (station, train no. date of journey, class etc.).
•        Enter mPIN for authorizing payment through Airtel money.
•        Booking confirmation SMS is sent by IRCTC and same can be used during journey along with valid ID proof..
•        Fare & service charges are debited from your Airtel money account.
•        PG Charges: Currently NIL
•        Agent Service Charges: Currently NIL
•        Helpline No.: 121
•        Helpline Email :

2. SMS based booking through 139*
•        Register your mobile number with IRCTC as well as with your bank.
•        Bank provides MMID (Mobile Money Identifier) & OTP (One Time Password) through IMPS (Immediate Payment Service) option.
•        More than 25 banks are providing IMPS facility. For generating MMID & OTP, visit website:
Booking Flow
•        Generate OTP through your Bank for authorization of payment.
•        Send SMS, in the following syntax, to 139 BOOK <TrainNo><FromStn.Code><ToStn.Code> <TravelDate (DDMM)><Class><Passenger-Name><Age><M/F>
•        You will receive Transaction ID alongwith other details.
•        Make payment through sending an SMS, in the following syntax, to 139 PAY <Transaction ID as received><IMPS><Your MMID as received from the bank><OTP, your one time password as received from the bank for this transaction><IRCTCUserID> and your ticket is booked; confirmation SMS is received on your mobile and same can be used during journey along with valid ID proof.
•        Service is available to all mobile subscribers.
•        SMSes @ Rs 3/- per SMS (2 SMSes are required for each booking).
•        PG charges Rs 5/- for ticket amount < Rs 5000/ and Rs 10/- for ticket amount >= Rs 5000/- (as applicable by bank).
•        Agent Service Charges: NIL
•        Helpline No.: 139

3. SMS based booking through 5676714*
•        Register your mobile number with IRCTC as well as with m-wallet (
•        Send SMS, to 5676714, in the following syntax START < irctc user Id > for user authentication (first time only)
Booking Flow
•        Send an SMS to 5676714 to book a ticket in the following syntax: BOOK <From stn.code>,<to stn.code>, <DDMMYY>, <Trainno>,<Class>,<passenger name>,<age>,<M/F>
•        1. "PAY , MPAY, < m-PIN >" for authorizing payment through MPAY
•        2. "Send <mobileno>,<mmid>,<amount>, <transaction Id>,<OTP>" to your Bank IMPS number.
•        After payment is made booking confirmation is sent to your mobile.
•        SMSes @ Rs 3/- per SMS (2 SMSes are required for each booking).
•        PG Charges: Currently NIL
•        Agent Service Charges: As applicable.
•        Helpline No. : 8882001001
•        Helpline Email :

4. SMS based booking through BSNL*
User should have the following:
1. BSNL SIM card installed.
2. Java enabled mobile phone.
3. Andhra Bank Prepaid card.
•        This is a menu driven application where user has to enter the details asked for in simple step-by-step process to get the ticket.
•        Install the application.
•        Select the Register option to get the mPIN.
•        Click the icon BSNL Prepaid Card
•        Select Ticketing > Train (IRCTC)
•        Fill up the journey details such as From stn, To Stn, Train No, DOJ, Class, Quota, passenger details.
•        Enter the mPIN to get the ticket information.
•        SMSes: without charges.
•        PG Charges: Currently NIL
•        Agent Service Charges: As applicable.
Helpline No. : 040-39849644

So, next time you book a rail ticket, take out your mobile.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

PS : largely reproduced from

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