Why are there so many websites with train times/schedules?

#1 Oct 10th, 2010, 18:05
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  • Ouzodave is offline
#1
The last time i did any train travel in India was back in 2001. Back then it was a scrum to the ticket booth which was all part of the fun but i much prefer these days to be booking things on-line. Anyways, i was wondering why there are so many websites with train times/schedules etc. Indian rail, erail. Do these other sites show train times that IRCTC don't show? Are they more Comprehensive?
#2 Oct 10th, 2010, 18:13
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What I can tell you is Erail for instance is more user-friendly, and gives the better search options -- that is, cough, once you've gotten to grips with all its various fields and general workings. Somewhat naturally. (These days, a difference is it also shows passenger trains I think. Another of those confusing designations, all trains save for freight trains carry passengers of course, but this means local trains that stop everywhere, and are not listed on the main official schedules. The first and faster class of trains above this that most people will normally want to use are known as Mail or Express trains, which stop just not quite everywhere. Other than this, I think Erail just taps into the official database, and it's supposed to be quite reliable.)

Then e.g. Cleartrip and Makemytrip and the likes sprung up to apparently facilitate the booking process, for a small fee. Other sites similar to Erail again will have sprung up out of a similar desire, not to provide bookings, but to facilitate the search process. There have been attempts to produce sites that would allow to search for onward connecting trains, but I'm not aware of any that have been successful. Erail these days does attempt to give suggestions along those lines (so where there is no direct connection), the reliability of which I don't know about.

The one and official (bookings) site so far remains the IRCTC one; which however has never been renowned for its user-friendliness. --> http://www.irctc.co.in/. It follows that it's always wise to take any results found at alternative sites back to the IRCTC one to make sure those results are correct; and, to do your own booking, you will have to anyway. (Though it has been reported here it's currently impossible again to book there from abroad. I don't know about the current status of that.) Couple this site perhaps with the official CRIS one at http://www.indianrail.gov.in/, which also links on to other pertinent official sites.

(Namely and meanwhile, over the years the Railways and/or IRCTC themselves have come up with a number of sites it seems, all geared to their own specific purposes, and then not to mention all the separate regional Railways divisions; to the extent that they haven't yet, it would seem time to merge these all together. This, or their greater coordination, seems to already have happened to a degree with various site updates of theirs over the years though. The whole thing, and, reportedly, the IRCTC bookings site accessibility -- I've never had to book there myself yet --, has certainly been improving.)

It has been reported here the Railways themselves are to open up a bookings site of their own shortly; I hadn't realized before they and IRCTC nor CRIS are not strictly speaking the same.

(To the confused reader, IRCTC = Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation; CRIS = Centre for Railway Information Systems; Indian Railways = state-owned, overseen by the Ministry of Railways. The former two somewhat confusingly fall under it as well, I believe.)
Last edited by machadinha; Oct 10th, 2010 at 19:58..
#3 Oct 10th, 2010, 18:35
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Indeed, it can get a tad confusing, but i think i've got it now. IRCTC would be my first choice to look for anything as this is really the official booking website. Unfortunately, yes, i am having problems booking a ticket through their website from abroad. I have though, started to use ClearTrip with no problems so far. Clear Trips booking page is far more user friendly than IRCTC, something that IRCTC must surely be sorting out soon. I've seen a few posts with complaints of inaccessibility to IRCTC web site. This must be due to more people booking online and the servers are starting to creak,LOL. I'm sure that it will be sorted though, after all the train system in India is very important to the country. I wish it was the same in England.
Last edited by Ouzodave; Oct 10th, 2010 at 18:37.. Reason: typos again!
#4 Oct 10th, 2010, 18:57
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Server overload would seem to be very much an issue with IRCTC yes. Also, I'm not sure about today, but it used to be you could only book there during Indian business hours.

People of late have been similarly reporting having trouble booking from abroad with Cleartrip and/or Makemytrip btw; again, I don't know the ins & outs of it. Anyway, you report now Cleartrip working for you alright, so: good And you're right btw, I find such sites internationally often hard to handle; must be complex databases you're looking at, right, but so anyway the Indian railways don't seem to be doing so bad here.

But in a nutshell, Erail is good for fast and user-friendly checking; then revert to one of the others for actual booking. Steven_Ber mentions another alternative site sometimes that sounds promising for easy searching, I don't remember its name nor have the URL.
#5 Oct 10th, 2010, 21:55
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At the moment i have what i need. Book trains through Clear Trip and print off my e-ticket, put my PNR into indianrail.gov status page and get all the stops etc in a nice table to print out.

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