It’s Never A Good Time To Ask For Money
Sticking the ‘C’ word into your blog post title can have seriously detrimental effects on your page views for that week. I suppose choosing London Marathon week as the moment to try it on again was pretty stupid.
So welcome the return of the SEO enhancing blog post. As the no-nonsense highly descriptive title tells you, this one concerns the mind boggling subject of planning your itinerary on Indian Railways. You’ll know this is a subject close to the heart of this project. If you aren’t a black belt at Indian Railway geography, and have an encyclopedic knowledge of the timetables, you may find as I did, that this is a non trivial exercise. Even sites like erail.in, which is perhaps the best currently out there, has a debilitating inadequacy. If you don’t happen to be going between 2 stations that have a direct service between them, it claims there is no service available. Indian Railways does have a spectacular array of services linking almost every corner of the country to the rest of India. But even IR can’t actually run trains from every station in the country to every other. You have to work it out yourself, and if you’re covering a long distance this can be devilishly difficult if you don’t do this kind of thing for a hobby, and know the entire Indian Railways network like the back of your hand.
These two guys are delighted they used BharatByRail to organise their trip.
During the initial development of GCIRC, this deficiency struck one of the original interested parties as quite unacceptable. Being something of a computer smarty pants he decided he was going to do something about it. Some of us who’s pants aren’t quite as smart, specifically me, told him it was an impossible task and advised him to give up immediately. I am now claiming a perverse sort of credit for the fruits of Shantanu’s labours.
Ladies and gentlemen, sahibs and memsahibs, railway wallahs and baiis, the GCIRC research and development community brings you, for the very first time in Internet history (er, well, not quite, see the timetable stuff below) , an Indian Railways planner that can calculate mutli train routes across the network. BharatByRail is currently very much at a beta testing stage, but there’s enough of you reading this (provided I don’t try cadging money from you) that will find this excellent device worth trying, and trying to break. This is the only site that will show you how to get from BOY to MAN on Indian railways, giving you 6 options in total. It will give you several effective ways of doing it even the most cunning of you hadn’t thought of. It gives 5 methods of doing the same journey while passing GRL, but none if you try to go through LOV as well. I’m not sure if that’s a bug or a design feature.
So please help us bring this project nearer to the masses by trying it out and giving the developer your feedback. Note: the station code completion software on the UI is still getting ironed out, please type your station codes in slowly and it works fine. There’s a feedback form on the right hand side of the one and only page.
From the horse’s mouth..
http://mybharatbyrail.appspot.com/ is constructed so that the train-search engine is entirely separate from the bit where you enter your start and destination city and time of travel stuff. I’ve written it so that different front-ends can access that search-engine. So if anybody wants to incorporate that search-engine into their front end – contact me ( via the feedback form or at shantanuDOTkarveATgmailDOTcom.
http://mybharatbyrail.appspot.com/ uses the usual MVC design pattern. ( I’m against patterns of course but that’s bytheby) There’s an API for the train-search-engine; with some thought given to multiple metaphors – REST, SOAP/WSDL( yuck, yuck yuck), AJAX. Also, I designed in, where contextually appropriate, multiple data transfer formats – simple UTF8, proprietary google, JSON and XML ( yuck, yuck, yuck).
So, if you want to reach out to me use the feedback form to do so ( Note the use of AJAX there ).
Other things to stick in an SEO enhancing blog post about planning a journey on Indian Railways are
Always, always, check out the man in seat61 before catching a train in any country you’ve not traveled by rail in before.
http://www.90di.com/travel/ – It appears my “first time in Internet history” claim was a bit rash, 90DI actually does this stuff too, and rather well, it even includes flights and is stunningly fast. But their’s wasn’t cooked up over Christmas from scratch. BbR does do stuff though that 90DI can’t do, the Darjeeling to Rameswaram route is one such conundrum which 90DI insists on a night stop in Siliguri for no good reason, but it’s natural language interface is clearly a winner, I can even misspell those long Indian place names and it works it all out for you.
Erail.in – generally regarded as the most user friendly, though I understand that the booking information isn’t always correct.
http://indiarailinfo.com/ – also good, comes with a route/train specific forum for each service so you can ask questions about your train
http://indianrailconnections.com/PlanJourney.aspx – there is also this as part of the gov system, but it’s a bit crude, only does one stoppers, no “super-stations” i.e station groupings.
For anyone who hadn’t noticed, the Internet was invented some time ago, and now you can buy just about anything on it, including your Indian Railways tickets. Avoid the strain of having to cope with the bureaucratic monster that India can often present itself as, and just log in to irctc and you can do it all on-line. The man in seat61 also recommends http://www.cleartrip.com/, and who am I to argue with him.
If you are a Britisher, or even if you aren’t but you’re one of those foreign tourist types off to experience mighty India, then if you know what you are going to do, and when you are going to do it, you can just hand it over to S.D. . He’ll sort everything out for you. Even if you dont know what you are going to do, if you’re planing to use the railway while you are out there you’ll be hard pressed to find better advice than you’ll get from these guys.
Check Your Train’s Running Status
This site gives the current running status of most major trains on the network. You can get this stuff from erail.in also, but trainenquiry works better. You’ll need to know the 4 digit train number first. I also have a Perl script I knocked up as my contribution to the GCIRC R&D group which I use to monitor our target trains which works fairly well. I’ll send you it if you ask nicely, or don’t sound like you’re going to need loads of help installing Perl.
The Official Indian Railway Website
This list wouldn’t be complete without a link to this one. There are links to irctc and trainenquiry from here, and also lots of other things. Working things out from in here though is an art form.