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Indian Railway seat availability in train

Discussion in 'Transportation' started by Kev75, Dec 26, 2016.

  1. Kev75

    Kev75 New Member

    I am planning a trip to India and will be making some train journeys as well. I have have been reading on the forum about the problems in getting an available seat for the Indian Railway.
    I would like to know how true is this information and if it is true how long before should I booking my seats for my journeys I make?

    How can I make sure I get seat availability for my planned train journeys?
     


  2. briannagodess

    briannagodess Well-Known Member

    Hello, welcome to the forum!

    Indian-Railways-Seat-availability.

    Overview

    The Indian Railways is one of the largest railway networks, not only in Asia, but also in the world. It is the preferred means of transportation of the masses, the middle-class individuals and yes, sometimes, even the elite class. For tourists, especially those who want to truly experience the lifestyle of Indians, then it's a must to ride the train even for just a few times in their stay in the country. Did you know that over 14,000 trains run on a daily basis in the country? This means that over 23 million passengers use the railways every day, which means that the average passenger rate is more than the population of some countries. With all these interesting facts though, there's no doubt that booking a ticket for a train in the Indian Railways can be nerve-wracking, especially for the first-time travellers in India. In this guide, we would highlight some basic information that you would need to know prior to booking a ticket for the Indian Railways, as well as how you can be assured of a seat in the train.

    How Early Can You Book For Ticket?

    You would need to understand a few basics before we discuss the seat availability on Indian Railways trains. The first thing you need to know is just how early you can book your ticket for the train journey. Depending on the type of journey or the type of traveller, how early you can book your train varies. You can refer to the table below as a guide.

    Earliest Booking for Indian Railways

    CategoryEarliest Booking Allowed (In Days)Earliest Booking Allowed (In Months)
    Long-Distance Train120 Days4 Months
    Short-Distance Trains15 Days to 30 Days1 Month or Less
    Foreigners360 Days12 Months
    For long-distance trains, booking for tickets usually open 120 days before the scheduled departure. This means that booking can be done as early as four months prior to the departure of the train. For short-distance trains, usually day trains, booking for tickets usually open 15 to 30 days before the scheduled departure. This means that booking can be done as early as a month, lesser sometimes, prior to the departure of the train. For foreign travellers, booking for tickets open as early as 360 days before the scheduled departure of their preferred train. This means that booking can be done as early as 12 months prior to the departure of their preferred train.

    The Quotas in Indian Railways

    You would also need to understand the different types of quotas in the Indian Railways. Generally, there are over 20 quotas available in the Indian Railways. Not all of them are open for reservation to the public though so in the table below, only the ones that are open for reservation for the general public would be highlighted.

    Quotas in the Indian Railways

    QuotaCodeDescriptionPriority
    General Waiting ListGNWLTicket Booked from Originating Station to Terminating StationHighest
    Tatkal Waiting ListTQWLTatkal Ticket Booked Day in AdvanceHigh
    Remote Location Waiting ListRLWLTicket Booked from Originating Station to Important Intermediate StationModerate
    Pooled Quota Waiting ListPQWLTicket Booked Either from Originating Station or Intermediate Station to Intermediate Station or Terminating StationMedium
    Roadside Station Waiting ListRSWLTicket Booked from Originating Station to Roadside StationLow
    Request Waiting ListRQWLTicket Booked from Intermediate Station to Intermediate Station (Not Covered by Other Quotas)Low
    These are the usual quotas in the Indian Railways. The first and most important is the General Waiting List (GNWL) quota, which simply means you're booking a ticket from the originating station to the terminating station. This quota is allotted the highest number of berths and seats in a train and given the highest priority as well. Thus, if someone cancels their ticket, those waitlisted under the GNWL quota are given the seats first. The next is the Tatkal Waiting List (TQWL) quota, which is reserved for those who book tickets through tatkal. The last four quotas are given the less priority in the Indian Railways. These quotas simply cover the other stations that the GNWL doesn't cover.

    So if you want a higher chance of being confirmed, it's best to book a ticket from the GNWL quota. If not, the RLWL is another good option though chances of getting confirmed with a waitlisted ticket are lower. The last three quotas have the least chances of getting confirmed tickets, primarily because berth availability in these quotas are less and chances of passengers cancelling are also less. The TQWL quota is given the next priority after the GNWL quota but since the fares here are non-refundable, passengers usually don't cancel their tickets for this quota.

    The Classes of Seats in Indian Railways

    This is yet another important aspect when booking a train from the Indian Railways. Trains have various coaches with specific classes of seats each. Some classes of seats are allotted a higher number of coaches and hence, a higher number of seats. Thus, for those who want to take their chances of waitlisted tickets, booking for a class of seat that has a higher number might increase your chance of getting a confirmed ticket. Below are the classes of seats in the Indian Railways and a bit of a description about them.

    Classes of Seats in the Indian Railways

    Class of SeatCodeNumber of CoachesAC/Non ACInnerSide
    Second Sitting2S2 to 4Non AC3 Wooden or Padded Seats2 Wooden or Padded Seats
    Sleeper ClassSL10 to 15Non AC3 x 3 Facing Padded Seats (Transformed into Upper, Middle and Lower Berths During Night)Side Padded Seats (Transformed into Upper and Lower Berths During Night)
    AC Third Class3A2 to 3AC3 x 3 Facing Padded Seats (Transformed into Upper, Middle and Lower Berths During Night)Side Padded Seats (Transformed into Upper and Lower Berths During Night)
    AC Second Class2A1 to 2AC2 x 2 Facing Padded Seats (Transformed into Upper and Lower Berths During Night)Side Padded Seats (Transformed into Upper and Lower Berths During Night)
    AC First Class1A1 to 2AC2 x 2 Facing Padded Seats (Transformed into Upper and Lower Berths During Night)Side Padded Seats (Transformed into Upper and Lower Berths During Night)
    Executive Chair ClassEC1 to 2AC2 Padded Seats2 Padded Seats
    AC Chair ClassCC1 to 2AC3 Padded Seats2 Padded Seats
    These are the different classes of seats in the Indian Railways trains. Second Sitting (2S) is the most affordable class but it doesn't have air conditioning and sometimes, seats are wooden. For short-distances, this class of seat would do just well. Sleeper Class (SL) is allotted the most number of coaches, around 10 to 15 in each route, each coach having around 70 seats. This is the most booked class in the train because it is affordable yet comfortable. It is non air-conditioned though but the seats can be transformed into berths during night time. The next three classes are your air conditioned options which are preferred by the middle-class individuals, families or those travelling in the summer. The AC First Class (1A) even has private cabins with lockable doors. The last two, Executive Chair Class (EC) and AC Chair Class (CC), are suitable for short distances, almost comparable to bus journeys.

    If you book a waitlisted ticket from the Sleeper Class (SL), the chances of being confirmed are slightly higher as compared to the other classes. This is because more passengers book tickets for the SL and therefore, there is a higher possibility for tickets to be cancelled. For the other classes, the allotted coaches and seats are lesser for them, thus, if you are waitlisted in any of these classes of seats, the chances of being confirmed are lesser too. Do keep in mind that with a Reservation Against Cancellation (RAC) ticket, you can board the train, but you are only assured of a seat, not a berth.

    How to Book Ticket For Indian Railways?

    There are two main ways of booking a ticket for a train from the Indian Railways. You can either book personally through a designated booking counter or online through the website of the IRCTC. There are also other websites like Cleartrip or Yatra where you can book an Indian Railways ticket for a surcharge. Since this guide isn't about the procedures of booking for an Indian Railways ticket, below is a brief overview of both booking types.

    Comparison of Ways of Booking Tickets For Indian Railways

    CategoryCounter BookingOnline Booking
    VenueNearest Booking CounterInternet-Enabled Gadget or Laptop (Through IRCTC Website or Affiliated Websites)
    Booking Times8:00 to 20:00 (Weekdays) & 8:00 to 14:00 (Sundays)12:30 to 23:30 (Daily)
    Modes of PaymentCash or Credit CardCredit Card, Debit Card and Internet Banking
    Refund PolicyRefund Obtained Only By CounterRefund Given to Credit Card or Debit Card Used
    QuotasAll Normal Quotas Plus Foreign Tourist Quota (Some Counters), Defence Quota and VIP QuotaNormal Quotas Only
    This table highlights the comparison between the two types of booking, namely, the counter booking and the online booking. Counter booking can be done on any booking centre close to you, usually on the railway station itself. The booking times are from 8:00 in the morning up to 20:00 in the evening during weekdays, from Mondays to Saturdays. The booking times are from 8:00 to 14:00 during Sundays. You can choose to pay via cash or credit card, there are separate counters for these two. If ever you need to cancel your ticket, you can do so online but you can only get your refund from the counter. Aside from the usual quotas, booking from the counter allows you to reserve tickets for various other quotas like the Foreign Tourist Quota (FTQ).

    Online booking can be done by your laptop or gadget, as long as you have internet connection. Booking times are from 12:30 to 23:30 daily while modes of payment can be via credit card, debit card or internet banking. For online booking, you can choose to have your ticket couriered to you (i-Ticket) or print it yourself (e-Ticket). If you have booked a waitlisted ticket that didn't get confirmed, your refund would be automatically given via your credit card or debit card. However, aside from the usual quotas, GNWL, TQWL, PQWL and the likes, you cannot book for specialised quotas online.

    Seat Availability in Indian Railways Train

    There are various ways of checking for the availability of trains in the Indian Railways. Let us assume that you need to reach Jaipur from Delhi. Simply go to the website of India Rail Info and input your originating station, then your terminating station. It will then show you all the trains available for this route. A sample image is given below with the Delhi Sarai Rohilla Porbandar Express Train No. 19264 as the designated train.

    Image_1.
    Total Number of Seats for Each Class in Delhi Sarai Rohilla Porbandar Express Train No. 19264
    To know the number of seats for each train in your route, simply click on your preferred train. The image above highlights the number of seats for the Delhi to Jaipur train, the Delhi Sarai Rohilla Porbandar Express Train No. 19264. Here's a quick breakdown of the different parts of the screenshot:

    Yellow - The yellow circle highlights the quota of the train. In this case, the quota is GNWL, which simply means General Waiting List, which we have already discussed before. As mentioned above, this type of quota has the highest number of berths and seats allotted for passengers. Chances of being confirmed for this quota, for waitlisted passengers, are also higher.

    Red - The red circle highlights the train name and number, which in this case, is the Delhi Sarai Rohilla Porbandar Express Train No. 19264. This train departs from the Delhi Sarai Rohilla Railway Station and arrives at the Jaipur Junction Railway Station.

    Purple - The purple circle highlights the number of seats for the Sleeper Class (SL) in this train. The total number of seats is 364 for this class.

    Blue - The blue circle highlights the number of seats for the Third AC Class (3A) in this train. The total number of seats is 83 for this class.

    ● Black - The black circle highlights the number of seats for the Second AC Class (2A) in this train. The total number of seats is 23 for this class.

    Now, you have a complete overview of the number of seats per each class for the specific train that you'd like to book. If you would like to find out a train's exact number of seats available for a specific class for a specific date, then you need to go to other websites that can provide you with such information. For that, you can utilise the help of other websites but a very user-friendly one that is recommended is the website of Indian Railways Info.

    So for example, let's say you want to book a Sleeper Class (SL) ticket for the Delhi Sarai Rohilla Porbandar Express Train No. 19264. Go to the Seat Availability tab in the Indian Railways Info website given above. You simply input your originating station, which is Delhi Sarai Rohilla in this case, and your terminating station, which is Jaipur Junction in this case. Choose your travel dates from the drop down list and then your preferred class, which is SL in this case.

    Image_2.
    Available Seats for Sleeper Class (SL) in Delhi Sarai Rohilla Porbandar Express Train No. 19264 for April
    The screenshot above showcases the seat availability for the Sleeper Class (SL) of the Delhi Sarai Rohilla Porbandar Express Train No. 19264 for the month of April this year. This train only runs during Mondays and Thursdays, that's why some dates don't show the number of available seats for them. As you can see, for the Sleeper Class (SL), there are still a number of seats available for the different running times of the train this month. You can easily book a ticket for this route and class without any worries.

    Now, let's look at the other class, AC Third Class, which as mentioned above, has a lower number of allotted seats as compared to the Sleeper Class (SL). Let's say you would rather book for a AC Third Class (3A) for the Delhi Sarai Rohilla Porbandar Express Train No. 19264 from Delhi to Jaipur. Follow the instructions above but instead of choosing the SL from the drop down list, choose 3A instead.

    Image_3.
    Available Seats for AC Third Class (3A) in Delhi Sarai Rohilla Porbandar Express Train No. 19264 for April
    As you can see from the screenshot above, there number of available seats for the AC Third Class in this train is significantly lower. But most of the dates already have waiting list quotas, except for the last date, which is April 27. Even so, the available number of seats for 3A for this date are just 9. For the other dates, you would be put on a waiting list quota if you book a ticket for them.

    Understanding Seat Availability Codes

    In other websites, you can input the train number and it will show you the exact number of available tickets as well as waitlisted tickets. They can even show you your position in the waiting list proper. But how do you decode these symbols? Sometimes, especially for the first-time travellers, the symbols and codes in such websites can be confusing. Let's take for example, the website of eRail, which is very user-friendly but uses some codes that can be hard to decipher.

    Again, let's utilise the same train above for convenience purposes. Let's say you want to book the Sleeper Class (SL) of the Delhi Sarai Rohilla Porbandar Express Train No. 19264 but you went to the eRail website instead. Again, simply input your train number in the appropriate box, next to the PNR Status box. Click on the number below your preferred class of seat, which is the number 51 under SL in this case. It will then show a page like below.

    Image_4.
    Codes for Delhi Sarai Rohilla Porbandar Express Train No. 19264

    For example, you wanted to book a Sleeper Class (SL) for the Delhi Sarai Rohilla Porbandar Express Train No. 19264 for April 17, 2017. However, all available seats and berths have been allocated already. Thus, you can only book for a waiting list ticket. So you see the above table and it got you even more confused. But there's a simple explanation for that table, so don't worry.

    As mentioned above, GNWL means General Waiting List quota and once the available seats for the quota has been fulfilled, all other bookings would be put under a waiting list. The red arrow points to the serial waiting list number, which is GNWL10. This is your starting position in the waiting list, if every you do book the ticket. This number would never change, it simply indicates what position you started in the waiting list. The green arrow points to the running waiting list number, which is WL9. This is the current position of the ticket holder in the waiting list. This is more important as it denotes whether you're moving up in the list or not.

    Another code you might encounter is RAC, which means Reservation Against Cancellation. With a RAC ticket, you can board the train and you would be allotted a side seat, but not a berth. For example, you see a code as RAC87/RAC71, can you guess what this code means? It's just the same as above, you started out as the 87th position in the RAC waiting list and has moved up to the 71st position. For example, you see another code by this form, REGRET/WL 300, what does this mean? This simply means that earlier, the quota and waiting list has been fulfilled but recent cancellations opened up the waiting list again and you would be in the 300th position if you book now.

    Assurance of Seat Confirmation on Trains

    You are only assured of a berth slash seat in the Indian Railways train if you have a confirmed ticket on hand. RAC ticket holders are assured of a side seat only, not a berth, that they have to share with a co-passenger. Waitlist ticket holders cannot board the train, even of their position in the waiting list is at the second or third already. Your best bet would be to book a ticket as early as possible. Seeing that you're a foreigner, you're given a privilege of booking your ticket as early as 360 days before its departure, so you can take advantage of that. Even then, booking as early as 120 days, for Indians, can give you that assurance of seat confirmation.

    As already mentioned above, make sure you book for a GNWL quota, instead of the other quotas, especially for waitlisted tickets. This way, your chances of being confirmed are higher. You can also make use of websites that predict whether your ticket can get confirmed easily. There are many such websites, one of which is the website of Rail Yatri. They make use of algorithms and previous date to calculate whether your waitlisted ticket can get confirmed or not. You simply input your ticket's PNR in the website and they can show you some details about its confirmation status.

    Image_5.
    Confirmation Probability on Indian Railways Train

    Similarly, websites like Trainman and Rail Yatri showcase the chances of confirmation of waitlisted train tickets. You just need to input your originating station and terminating station or the train number specifically and it will show the likelihood of having your ticket confirmed by percentage.

    Conclusion

    You can easily learn more about the seat availability on various Indian Railways trains via the official website of the IRCTC or even through other booking websites. As early as 120 days before the train's scheduled departure, you can book for your ticket via these websites as well. For foreigners, the earliest possible date for booking is 360 days before the scheduled departure of the train. But for short-distance trains, booking usually opens just 15 to 30 days before its departure. While it's easy to learn about the seat availability, confirmation of seats is more daunting. Thankfully, many websites allow for confirmation probability prediction, so you can decide whether you'd proceed with booking or not.

    I hope this helps you!:)