Aditya MadanapalleJan 27, 2017 10:25:23 IST
There was a book sale going on at Churchgate, which was to wind up at 8:00 pm. At 6:45 pm, I wound up my work at Parel in Mumbai and rushed to the Elphinstone Road railway station to catch a train. To my dismay, there was an unusually long line. I just Googled for "buy railway ticket online" and the UTS App was thrown up. "This is Great!" I thought to myself, but stood in the line just in case. I did not know at that time, but the UTS app has been around for a while now. It allows paperless tickets with cashless transactions.
The simplest way this can be done is that you enter in the current station and destination station, make a payment, and you get a ticket that can be shown on demand. The UTS app is anything but simple. First, there is the registration process. This requires users to enter in the details of an ID card, such as the PAN card, voter ID or driver's license. Once this is done, you can proceed to buying the ticket, but the registration is still not complete. I was still fiddling with getting the app, choosing train type, payment method and default class, when I noticed the line in front of me reduce considerably. I just got my ticket the old fashioned environmentally unsound way, and boarded a train.
I found out later, to complete the registration, you have to cancel the prompt to first buy the ticket, then get an OTP code, feed that in, and then get a password, and use that password to login. Phew. The password is a number auto-generated by the system, and cannot be changed by the user. You do not need to logout, just press back too many times and you will be required to login again. You have to put in your personal information such as gender, date of birth and name. They wanted me to put in a city, but Thane was not on the list of options, so I had to settle for the second best option, and feed in Mumbai.
Ok, so now the registration is done, the next step is to read the "Getting Started" guide I guess. Reading through the guide and going back gives a "Do you want to cancel payment.." alert, which can be pretty scary or confusing. I just ignored it as a bug (you have to tap on Ok, and not Cancel). After that, there is finally a menu. Now do not expect to book ticket and transfer money through a mobile wallet or mobile banking. Users have to first load the money into the R-Wallet, which is an electronic wallet for Indian Railways.
Now, it is possible to load money on the R-Wallet through the app itself. Earlier versions of the app did not let you top up your balance from within the app. Paytm and Mobikwik have been added as payment gateways on 10 January 2017 according to the app listing on the Play Store. However, only Paytm is available in the app as of now, and you will get a OTP from your bank for authorising the transaction. The Paytm mobile wallet cannot be used to top up the R-Wallet. The R-Wallet can only be topped up in multiples of Rs 100, with a maximum allowed amount of Rs 5,000. The R-Wallet can also be topped up through ticket counters and online at the UTS Mobile Ticketing website.
Then you can finally go ahead and attempt to book the ticket by choosing a starting station and a destination station. Now do not expect to do this while at the station itself, you have to do it at a distance from the station. If your workplace is in close proximity to a railway station, you actually have to walk away from the railway station to be able to book. I was wondering why the starting station was not appearing, till I read a review of the UTS app on News18 that pointed out that you cannot book a ticket while at the station, to prevent users from abusing the system. Additionally, for someone who frequently changes smartphones, using this application is impossible. The application binds itself to the device, and you have to remember to first unlink it from the device within the app before activating your account on a new device. This can only be done once every three months.
After that, the actual booking of the ticket takes some time and is verified using the GPS signal. This fails frequently, and the application asks you to move to a place with better GPS coverage. As you can see, the stars have to align perfectly for a ticket to be purchased. I have not yet been able to purchase a ticket at all and will have to try again in the evening. I'm planning to walk away from my office building and the railway station, just to purchase the ticket.
There are a number of steps you have to take and the application does not clearly mention that you cannot purchase the ticket from the railway station itself. Loading money into the R-Wallet is not an easy process. The rules are not explicitly mentioned and you have to guess your way around the app. The menus and interfaces do not make logical sense, with drop down options available even when there is only one option. The application suffers from bugs and glitches as well. In short, the application is not user friendly at all.
Despite working as a technology reporter, I find it easier to go by the non digital way of doing things considering the painful implementation so far. When Thane station had most of its ticket windows with people in it replaced with automatic ticket machines, I would just take the time and extra effort to go to the ticket windows still manned by people, and stand in line. The experience with the UTS app has not helped with my perceptions. It was difficult enough for me, but can imagine how challenging it would be for someone who is even less comfortable with new technologies.
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