Indian railways on Friday launched SMS-based ticketing with two dedicated numbers - 139 and 5676714 - for the service.
"In order to give improved customer service and empower the common man who does not have access to internet and cannot afford to buy smart phones, we are on Friday launching SMS ticket booking service", Railway Minister Mallikarjun Kharge said.
He said the service will particularly be useful for labourers staying away from home as they will find the service convenient as well as cost-effective and they will not have to travel to booking counters and forgo the earnings for a day.
Ticket booking through non-internet based mobile, launched as a pilot project by Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), will also help Railways overcome the menace of touts who fleece unsuspecting people, Kharge said.
"This will also help reduce touting activities. We will see how it functions... if there are shortcomings, then we will try to change accordingly", he said.
He hoped since the mobile penetration in India has increased rapidly and more than 80 per cent people have mobile phones, the new system will be helpful in enabling booking of tickets by masses themselves.
The Railway Minister said inconvenience in booking reserved railway tickets has been a cause of concern for all.
"In order to facilitate easy access, railways have been making efforts by expanding the passenger reservation system counters' network. The online booking through IRCTC has now grown up to about 45 per cent of total reserved tickets. This has eased the rush at counters to a great extent.
"While internet access in India is only about 10 per cent, mobiles are now in easy reach and more than 80 per cent people in our country use mobile phones," Minister said.
Railway Board Chairman Vinay Mittal said railways' initiative of launching the ticketing through a mobile phone would further enhance the scope of ticketing since it has huge potential to tap the power of mobile phones.
"This service will be improved further with provision of more payment options, user-friendly interface and value added services like alerts and updates," Mittal said.
On payment mode, Mittal said "payment through mobiles is still in an evolving state and commercial Banks, RBI and National Payment Corporation of India are working on providing a safe, secured and quick payment mechanism through mobile."
IRCTC Chairman-cum-Managing Director Rakesh Tandon hoped that with passage of time this mode of booking would surpass booking through website due to the convenience and the wider reach of mobile phones as compared to the internet.
As per the requirement, one has to register the mobile number with IRCTC as well as one's bank. The bank provides MMID (Mobile Money Identifier) and OTP (one time password) for authorization of payment.
The passenger has to type the train number, destination, journey date, class and passenger details like name, age and gender on the SMS box.
The sender will receive transaction ID and then make payment through sending another SMS by typing PAY followed by the transaction ID, MMID as received from the bank and password and with this the passenger's ticket is booked.
The service is available to all mobile subscribers and Rs 3 is being charged per SMS and payment gateway charges are Rs 5 for ticket amount upto Rs 5,000 and Rs 10 for more than Rs 5,000.