Train tickets on your mobile - UTS is here!

For a Mumbaikar, trains have been a lifeline and I have actually spent a significant part of my life in a train, literally. (It all came to an end recently when I moved to Bangalore). However, when I am occasionally in Mumbai and need to travel, I prefer the train over driving. This is partly because driving from Kalyan to anywhere in Mumbai is a energy sapping experience due to the sheer distance involved. And secondly, trains are so much more convenient if you can plan out your travel at a non-peak time.

However, one pain point for me was the process of buying a train ticket. You reach the ticket counter and there is invariably a long line of people at the ticket counters and when you finally reach the counter there is invariably an argument for change. Overall, a not-so-great experience. And then, the beggars and squalor near the ticket counter only makes it worse. I have always wondered why a digital solution hasn't be worked out yet.

A couple of months back, when I was in Mumbai, I was in for a pleasant surprise. I came to know of the Unreserved Ticketing System (UTS) Mobile Ticketing solution, thanks to Sukrit Sir's post on facebook. This is an initiative by the Indian Railway, wherein you can book your unreserved train tickets (local, season and platform) online through a mobile app. So, basically you don't need to visit a ticket counter ever again.

How do you go about booking your ticket through the app? Read on!

STEP 1 : Register

Download the app from the links below and go through the sign-up process (If you own an iOS device, go eat an apple. There's no app on the AppStore yet )


Your mobile number acts as your userid. You'll also need to provide an id proof which will have to be carried during the journey as well.
As part of the signup process you also get to select some frequent routes, which would help you Quick Book your tickets in the future.
You get to choose default values for ticket type (single/return), class and number of passengers.

You can also signup on the website which can be accessed here I did have some issues with captcha while accessing this website on the mobile though.

STEP 2 : Recharge

Tickets can be payed for only through R-Wallet.You'll have to recharge the R-Wallet before you buy a ticket. Recharges can be done through the app as well as the website.

STEP 3 : Book your Ticket

Now the final step is booking ticket and which is where things get a little tricky.

1) To book a ticket through the UTS app, you have to be within 2 kilometers of a railway station. This is a little tricky, since it beats the whole point of being online. I am not very sure why this restriction is placed.
Also, you should be 15 meters away from a station. I guess this is to ensure people don't begin their journey without buying a ticket, and book a ticket when confronted by a ticket checker.

2) As mentioned above, the app needs to know your location and therefore you should have a phone with GPS functionality, and the GPS should be set to High Accuracy. The app identifies stations near you within a 2 km radius and gives you the available choice of stations. Phones which have issues getting a GPS lock, generally struggle at this stage.

3) You can choose to book a paperless ticket or a paper ticket. (A paper ticket needs to be printed at a kiosk at the station you are boarding from).

4) If your default journey class, that you chose at registration is "Second Class", and you want to travel "First Class" on a given day, you'll have to go to "Profile" and "Change Journey Details" which is where the defaults are stored. This is also where you can choose whether you want a "single" journey or a "return" journey.

5) Once the ticket is booked you have to commence the journey within an hour. The "Show Ticket" option lets you display the ticket and details in case you are asked for it. A QR code is also displayed which can be scanned by the TC to verify the authenticity. You need to ensure you have enough charge on your mobile till the journey ends. If your phone dies before you reach your destination and a Ticket Checker catches you en-route, you would be treated as a ticketless passenger.

6) However, if you lose internet connectivity on hte phone, the app has an offline mode which will still let you access the ticket you had bought. There is a "Show Ticket" option in offline mode which works perfectly well.

7) The app also doesn't let you take screenshots. You cannot book tickets on your phone and send it to someone else.

8) You cannot reuse your tickets, since tickets disappear from the app once the journey is over. A journey history is available to let you quickly rebook tickets for journeys you had undertaken earlier.

9) The app is tied to your mobile and in case you change your mobile, you'll have to raise a "Change Handset" request. I am not very sure of how this works, though.

10) If the login credential fails three times consecutively ,then the user account will be locked.It will be unlocked automatically after 1 hour. There is no prior intimation of this and you better be careful since you wouldn't want to be locked out of the app jsut before a journey.

My experience with the app

Coming to my experience with the app, it worked perfectly well, all 3 times I used it. The offline mode also worked perfectly.
But the GPS lock and the restriction of being within a certain distance from the station, are steps where even I had some trouble. And this is when I am using a Mi3, which is arguably at the top-end as far as phones go. I guess phones with below average GPS would struggle at this step. Definitely something they need to iron out. Maybe, they could do away with this location restriction itself, since it needlessly complicates the process .

Another thing they need to iron out, is the recharge process. I have encountered issues with the servers being down a couple of times, and I was left with no way to recharge the wallet, which means you cannot book tickets either.

But overall, this is one great step in the right direction for Digital India. And I am sure it will go a long way in managing the crowds and wait times at the ticket counters. However, the absence of any communication or publicity by the Railways in this regard is surprising, especially with the recent demonetisation episode. Hope more people will start knowing and using this app in the days to come.

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