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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Checking Seat Availability on the India Railway System

When searching for seat availability you will come across notations like "AVAILABLE- 0068", meaning that 68 seats are available for the day you have indicated. When searching for seat availability on particular Indian trains, you may also encounter notations like "WL 40/WL 10". This may look a bit confusing for a new user, but there’s a perfectly logical explanation and, once you understand it, this is a useful bit of information.

Basically, there are two types of reservations on Indian trains:

Seats with berth are reserved on a first-come-first-served basis.

Once the seats with berths are allocated, all other requests are under the "Reservation against Cancellations" category, popularly known as RAC.

RAC is not a waiting list in the conventional sense. You can still board the train with a RAC ticket, and you do have a confirmed seat. However, a sleeping berth will be allotted based on availability due to cancellations.

Only after the "seat only " seats are also filled does the real concept of a "waiting list" come into the picture, and this is where the "WL 40/WL10" notation comes into play. This notation on your India railway ticket means that you were the 40th person on the waiting list, but due to cancellations you are currently 10th on the waiting list.

Now why, you may ask, would you need to know how many seats got cancelled? Good question. An experienced India railway traveler will know how many seats generally get cancelled on a particular train route, and can plan his trip accordingly. It’s definitely chancy, but to give you an idea, over 200 seats generally get cancelled for a Second Class Sleeper on an Indian train.

Make sure you check the status of your ticket just before boarding an Indian train, to see if you have an RAC or WL ticket. You can do this through the internet, at the reservation enquiry counter, or over the phone. The telephone number for the Interactive Voice Response System is on the reverse of the ticket. You will need the 10 digit PNR printed on the upper left hand corner of the ticket to check your ticket type.

You will not have a seat assigned to you if the status is WL. Contact the TTE to determine your chances of getting a berth. However you can still travel with this ticket in the General Compartment.

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