A trip to a reservation counter.....

The advent of online railway ticket reservations, through IRCTC, changed the way many Indians book their train tickets. While the system offers loads of advantages, it comes it its share of dis-advantages. The extra cost incurred becomes a huge minus for the cost-conscious, while security of the transactions worry many others. I and my family have been using the system since its initial days, and we were overwhelmed mainly by the convenience of booking a ticket sitting at home.

However, the charm of having a physical ticket in hand, hard-earned after waiting at the reservation counter in a queue, is something that IRCTC cannot match. I had been to the reservation counter, about two weeks back to book a ticket and the experience was interesting. Today, I faced yet another reason to be at the reservation counter. I had to book a Tatkal ticket for a train that departs on Saturday. I woke up late at morning, unmindful of the fact that it was opening day for Tatkal booking. I logged on to the website at some 1030, to find all tatkal seats in AC Three-tier sold out! About 12 seats (the entire quota) was vacant in AC Two-tier, and I decided to take a risk by heading to the reservation counter instead of booking it online.

I left home at about 1105, and headed straight to the bus stop. Got into a bus by around 1120, and I reached the railway station (about 36 kms away) by around 1225. The first thing that I did on entering the reservation counter was to take a token. The reservation counter at Thrissur works on a Token System. Token numbers are called, and one can make a reservation at the counter that displays his/her token number. This system allows people to be seated comfortably, and proceed to the counters only when the number approaches close. My token said that my serial number was "502". The last number called then was 370. I was still 132 people away!

The Reservation Office at Thrissur Railway Station

Thrissur has infrastructure for 6 counters, of which 4 are in usable condition. Out of the four, only three were working on the day. After filling up the reservation requisition form, I headed straight to the railway station for some railfanning. Got a platform ticket in a couple of minutes. Just while entering the platform, twin Golden Rock diesels rushed towards Shoranur with a BCNA rake in tow. The station was not very crowded, being a working day. There is an exit for the station, which opens directly in front of the reservation office. I decided to stay around that exit, so that I could check the status of tokens at the reservation office.

Very soon, the PA system came alive with the characteristic chime, and a very irritating advertisement. Following the advertisement was another chime, and then the announcement that Mangalore bound Parasuram express was expected on Platform 2 very soon. The train arrived at 1250, with WAP4 #22341 of Erode doing the honours. I took a snap of the train while it started from Platform 2. A little later, the Hyderabad bound Sabari Express arrived behind WAP4 #22669 of Erode. The station became silent after Sabari left, and there were no arrivals or departures expected over the next one hour. I headed back to the reservation office now.

The last token number called had now jumped to about 430 (60 tokens cleared in about 40 minutes). I noticed then that the numbers were dropping at a very slow pace now. It was then that I found that one window was being used for Bulk booking by a party (booking for a group of 72 passengers heading to Goa!). The booking took well over 40 minutes to complete, and this delayed the speed of reservations badly. From about 2 tokens per minute, the speed suddenly dropped to about two minutes per token. The countdown to the shift change was now ticking at a steady pace. Meanwhile, I headed off to the station to check on the Guruvayur-Ernakulam passenger, that was now expected to arrive. The passenger (a 11 coach rake) arrived with WAP4 #22728 of Erode at 1356.

The LP stopped the train pretty away from where the train would normally stop, and passenger made a mad dash behind the train to get on board. I returned to the reservation counter now, to see that one counter had already closed for the break, while others too were closing. They would re-open only at 1415. I headed out to have my lunch now. I headed straight to Sassya Restaurant on Platform 1. While the waiter served my lunch, the Trivandrum bound Netravati express pulled in behind WAP4 #22213 of Erode. Post lunch, I headed off to the reservation counter, only to see it still closed.

While standing outside the reservation waiting hall, I noticed a thatched roof building with the insignia of the Maharaja of Cochin (under whose rule the area was, pre-independence). I had heard about a Maharaja's Rest Room at Thrissur, but never ever imagined that it was right in front of the station. The building itself appeared to be well-kept, but was not being maintained with the prestige that it should hold. The room was being used as the Porter's room, and some other miscellaneous railways offices.

The Maharaja's rest room at Thrissur...

After capturing a couple of images, I headed back to the reservation office. The token numbers had now crossed 485. I decided to hang around the counters itself. One counter was again blocked for bulk booking, and the numbers were dropping at a very slow pace now. The clerks manning the counters were strict at not entertaining people without a token. At around 14:30, Counter 3 flashed "502". I headed straight to the counter, and person searched for availability! Bingo! The entire quota was yet to be touched. He quickly issued tickets, that were even matching to berth preferences!!! While it took me hardly an hour on the previous experience to book a ticket, this time it took me two hours. Being a Monday, action at the station was at pathetic lows.

Just before I left the station, Asansol's WAG5 #23353 rushed through with a BCNA rake, ending a short railfanning session. After this, I headed straight to the bus station for a round of bus fanning, and then a journey on a bus of my favorite operator back home!


Shaggy said…
lucky man.... i never gor a cnfrmd tickt wenever i tried for tatkal.... again m goin today.... n wud hav to spend the whole nite on railway station