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Call your bank for rail tickets

Calcutta, Sept. 24: Long queues at reservation counters will be a thing of the past once the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) starts offering tickets through call centres and internet banking sites of major nationalised and private banks.

“We have received the green signal to start testing the facility. If the trial run is successful, we will launch the service in the next couple of months,” IRCTC officials said. “The software has to run smoothly as there will be no manual intervention in the entire operation,” they added.

The trial run will start with customers of State Bank of India (SBI) through the bank’s internet banking site.

IRCTC is a public sector enterprise under the railway ministry. The corporation also runs food courts at railway stations, in-train catering, refreshment rooms, and special catering and hospitality services for Indian Railways.

The organisation offers reservations through its website, a facility currently limited to credit card holders. The new service will allow the organisation to reach out to a larger number of people.

IRCTC is optimistic about the returns from the new initiative. “On an average, 2200 bookings were made on the internet in September,” sources said. “This is much higher than our peak season average of 1800 reservations. Through banks, we expect to reach out to a wider user-base,” they added.

Besides State Bank of India, public sector banks like Punjab National Bank, Bank of Baroda and others are keen to join the network. Private sector banks like Citibank, IDBI Bank, HDFC Bank, UTI Bank and ICICI Bank are already part of the network.

Most banks feel that internet banking facilities are rarely used for transactions. Most account holders use the service to get their balance accounts and for other services. The tieup with IRCTC could see a rise in the use of internet banking.

IRCTC has arrangements with nine major banks to provide direct debit facility using debit cards, wherein the amount for reserved tickets is debited from the user’s bank account. A person can call his bank’s call centre and after providing identification details buy tickets. “This type of transaction leaves no chance of fraud as the customer’s details are already present with the bank,” sources said.

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