How does Indian Railways books a ticket ?

December 10, 2016

Every Indian has lots of question when he/she gets a train ticket especially waiting tickets.

Today we are going to explain such topics for you.

What is the algorithm used to reserve train seats? How are seats allocated based on group bookings and how RAC and waiting seats get confirmed?

Lets First take How many seats we have to play with I will take a ICF Coach or Old Coach for an Example, The total no of seats to be reserved are as following

  • Sleeper Class– Seats in one Coach= 72, No of coaches(Suppose)= 10, Total seats=720
  • Third tier AC, 3A- Seats in one Coach= 64, No of coaches(Suppose)= 3, Total seats=192
  • Second Tier AC, 2A– Seats in one Coach= 46, No of coaches(Suppose)= 2, Total seats=92
  • First tier AC, 1A- Seats in one Coach= 18, No of coaches(Suppose)= 1, Total seats=18

Total seats to be reserved in a Normal train= 720+192+92+18= 1022 Seats

Sleeper Class- 71%,
3A- 19%,
2A- 9%,
1A- 1 %

Seat reservation starts 60 days prior now (Recent Change). But there is one quota called Tatkal Quota, Under that Almost 20% seats i.e 212 seats are allotted one day before
In tatkal quota
Sleeper- 20% of available accomodation- 144 Seats
3A- 16 seats per coach= 48 Seats
2A – 10 seats per coach= 20 seats

Thus at the time of normal booking we have 810 seats, now take out the different quotas Like VIP, Defense as they dont affect – 35-40 seats(Suppose)
Defense quota has 2 seats in each class thus making 6 seats in total, it is not available in all trains
VIP/HO Quota has around 30-40 tickets in each train in different classes
Now the no is 770.
Sleeper- 565
Under Ladies quota there are 6 seats in each sleeper coach= 60 seats in total
So now total is 710.

Now lets come to allotment of seats

  • First importance is given to the senior Citizen, Pregnant women and Ladies above 45 years

Females in above mentioned category have 2 Lower berths in each of the sleeper coach. That is 20 out of 515 left. These seats are exclusively left for them

Now step by step booking process

  1. I am a 23, Male, I enter my details and I have written preference for the Upper berth. There are 18 UB in each sleeper Coach, total upper berths= 180, In tatkal 20% gone. Thus left over is 144 Berths. The system will allot the berth to all 144 persons without an exception in different Sleeper coaches. After Upper Berth is filled they start giving in Middle Berth and Side upper Berth, But in that some seats are left to be filled at the time of chart preparation.
  2. Suppose there is a couple who booked ticket but it was in waiting and it got confirmed in chart reservation, Now they will be allotted tickets in and around same coupe or two middle berths. They are not alloted Berths together most of the time. Suppose like Lower and Middle, or Side Lower and Side upper
  3. Seat allotment goes according to the choices of user untill less than 100 seats are left. After that time UB might get exhausted, so MB and Side upper berth starts filling. Generally it is seen that Side upper berths which are above RAC berths are given to the single Males having age above 21
  4. RAC Berths are Divided like following
    2-4=> 2AC
    4-6=> 3AC
    8-12=> Sleeper
    RAC allotments are given to passengers after all the seats have been allotted despite their choices. Suppose there were two seats available when I booked for a group of 4. 2 people will get confirm berth, they might be given in different coaches too depending upon availability. 2 people will get RAC and it will be shown RAC-1 and RAC-2, Once somebody cancels their status will become CNF but seat will be allotted after chart preparation only
  5. Most of the railway bookings are done in pairs when it is ending, Suppose two people book tickets together then it is most likely that they will get two middle berths opposite to each other rather than Lower Middle or Side upper and lower combo. And suppose if Side upper is available and Side Lower is not available then mostly Middle Berth pair is given.
    It is a notable fact that I have seen most couple travel in Middle Berth opposite seats
  6. Only 20-30% seats are open for Lower berth preferences for Males and that too aged more than 21. Most of these berths are given to old age people and women. In rare cases Senior citizen are alloted UB, it is only done if the only seat available is upper berth
  7. A special care is taken that a female is not left alone in a coupe during chart preparation, Mostly females are clubbed together and Female coupe can be well defined in the train. If they are not able to allot like that and suppose a single female 22 got a UB in a Coupe, then the most probable event is that either a family will come or other single female traveller will come in Coupe, If not so then females from Tatkal are allotted seats in that coupe. In no circumstances railways leaves women alone in coupe

How to predict RAC and Waitlist ticket Confirmation?

As much fun it is to travel in train in India. The suspense factor is more whether your wait listed ticket will get confirmed or not. Until the last time of chart preparation, all we do is just cross their fingers and hope that the ticket gets confirmed.

We log on to check the PNR status again and again. Each time with the hope to see a “Confirm- CNF” sign on the page. Sometimes we even wait till the chart preparation. Some get lucky while others not.

How predicting will help?
Any travel or journey will be smoother and more comfortable and you will not have to make last minute arrangements. Sure we also have tricks to travel without a confirmed ticket . But that may not be suitable for everyone. May be you are traveling with your family or you just don’t like the idea of traveling without a confirmed seat.

You might probably weighing your options that if there are less chances of getting a train ticket confirmed i will book a flight. If you wait to book the flight only to see that your ticket has not been confirmed you will end up purchasing flight tickets at a even higher price.

So, it will be beneficial if you can sort of predict the chances of getting the tickets confirmed.

Is it really possible to predict future?
Now, predicting wait-list tickets getting confirmed is like predicting human nature. It’s like predicting how your girlfriend will be behaving with you this evening! It is not easy to tell! Really!

It depends upon several factors. So it cannot be 100% accurate. But there are indeed some formula and algorithm when used properly you can get a fair idea weather if your ticket will get confirmed or not!

Let’s take a fictional situation where you have to go to Mumbai in Pashchim express. Here are some of the ideas that we would use in predicting if a train ticket will get confirmed or not:

STEP NO 1  KNOW YOUR TRAIN – The world of Quotas

  • There are several quotas on every train. Almost half of the seats are reserved for some or the other quota ranging from Tatkal, Ladies, VIP, Handicapped, Foreign Tourist to several others.

    So one of the quickest way to know your chances of getting a ticket booked or not you will have to see how many tickets are available in these quotas. More tickets available in the quotas, more chances of your ticket getting confirmed.

    How to find quota details:
    You can do so by logging on official Indian Railway site

    Here you click on train between important stations.

    On next page you can choose different quotas and then search how many seats are available in it by clicking on “Get availability” button.

    So for example
    let’s say you are traveling in Pashchim express from Delhi to Mumbai in the sleeper class. Your waiting list number is around 13 . And there are 4 days left for the journey.

    After doing the quota research you find that

    • VIP Quota has 20 seats available.
    • More seats available in ladies quota or even handicap quota.
    • Let’s say total seats available in the quotas are around 30

      Time for Prediction:Let’s say that the total seats available is around 30 and your waiting number is 13.

      Even after some quota bookings chances are HIGH that your ticket will get confirmed after chart preparation.  Because, there more then twice number of seats available. Even if there are new bookings, there would be some cancellations too. So this makes our chances high!
      But if there were only 4-5 tickets available, chances of confirmation becomes lesser.

  • B- Look at ROUTE Source and destination
    The majority of seats are available to the source station passengers. In the above example of Paschim express, only a portion of Delhi passengers get a quota which is less then Amritsar which is the starting station.

    If you plan to go from Delhi to Mumbai. It’s better to buy a ticket of train that starts from Delhi rather than of a train which is on a via route.

    Because the source station has major quotas and more seats. A station en-route usually have a very little quota. So it would be better to book a 15 waiting list ticket of a train starting from Delhi rather than getting a 5 WL ticket of a train where Delhi is only a remote location quota. (Which is very less usually)

  • Rack composition
    Another thing to look for is how many coaches of different classes are on the train.

    • If there are few coaches (seats) in your ticket’s class then chances are less that your ticket will be confirmed.
    • Example: In most trains 2nd AC seats are very less. Less seats means less seats quotas, less cancellations. And finally, less chances of getting it confirmed.
    • For instance in Garib Rath, has only 3E class rakes so there is a high chance to get a wait list confirming in this train. My personal experience has been that more 100 waiting list on a Garib Rath train will have a good chance of getting a confirmed seat!
  • Train timings
    Trains that start in the night for over night journey has more traffic and less cancellations as compared to the ones starting in early morning.

    Most seats are available in the trains that start in odd-timings. If there are other options available in the day. People will book the day train first.

  • The class itself
    • Sleeper class has most cancellations. Because it always has maximum number of seats.
    • There are few cancellations in 1AC and 2nd AC.
  • STEP 2 LOOK AT YOUR WAITING LIST If you look closely your wait list ticket will show two numbers WL 58/ 24

    The number of left side, 58 tells you that when you booked the ticket it was 58  waiting. 24 tells your current wait list status.

    What this tells you
    It is an indicator of amount of cancellations happening since you’ve bought the ticket. So if there are less cancellations it would mean that chances of getting your ticket being confirmed is less too!


    • WL 58/50 – only 8 tickets cancelled. This would mean less people are canceling their tickets.
    • WL 50/10 – 40 tickets have been cancelled! This means that a lot of people are canceling the tickets! A very good sign!


In the previous step we looked at our ticket’s wait list number. Now let’s have a look at number shown while booking the ticket.

When you book the ticket. The availability status will show a number like WL 112/54

This number tells you a story. 112 here means that in this section, waiting list has gone upto 112. The next number 54 tells that at this moment there are 54 people ahead of you. So if you book a ticket now, you’ll be the 55th.

How is this useful:

This will get you an idea about how many people cancel the tickets on a particular train. If the difference is not much then probably there are less cancellations.
Less cancellations means that if you buy a high wait list ticket in this section then your chances of getting a confirmed seat are very less.

On the other hand if there’s a stark difference between maximum waiting and current waiting like WL 50/ 10 it would mean that there are many cancellations and this would be a positive sign!



There are several other factors that influence waiting list cancellations.

  • Festival time like holi, diwali, rakhi. lesser cancellations and waiting list just keeps on increasing.
  • Public holidays – less cancellations one day before the holiday. Because many people who work outstations book an overnight ticket to spend time with the family in the hometown.
  • Evening trains – The trains with overnight journey will have maximum reservations. Because less people want to waste day time in traveling.
  • Long distance trains- have lesser cancellations. Because for short distances, people might change the plan to go in the bus or even hire a taxi. But the only comfortable way of traveling long distance journey of anything more than 10 hours would be train.

    So if your ticket is of a long distance route, it will have less cancellations.

  • Weekends –  lesser cancellations and more bookings. This is the time when outstation workers go on an overnight journey to meet their families. And people make weekend travel plans.

    If its not urgent for you its always better to book ticket in the middle of the week. Like Wednesday etc.

    Friday night and Saturday night trains are always full. So are Sunday night trains, when people want to reach to their work city to join work on Monday.

  • Yearly Timings
    During summer holiday i.e. between April to July, getting a ticket is very very difficult. This is the holiday time for children so many families plan to visit relatives in other cities or go on a vacation. Less cancellations at this time too.