Booking a train ticket in India can be a task in itself, especially when it comes to choosing seats. Unlike booking a ticket for a movie theatre or an airplane, the Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) does not allow passengers to choose seats. But why is that?
The answer lies in the physics of how a train operates. A moving train is not just a simple object that goes from point A to point B. It is a complex system of various forces and mechanics acting on it. Safety is of utmost importance when it comes to operating a train, and the Indian Railways takes it very seriously.
To ensure the safety and stability of a train, the booking software of Indian Railways is designed in such a way that it distributes the load evenly in a train. For instance, imagine a train with sleeper class coaches numbered S1 to S10, each with 72 seats. When a passenger books a ticket, the software will assign a seat in the middle coach like S5, a middle seat numbered between 30-40, and preferably a lower berth. The software books seats in such a way that all coaches have uniform passenger distribution and seats are filled starting from the middle seats (36) to seats near the gates, i.e. 1-2 or 71-72, in order from lower berth to upper. The Railways fills the lower berths before the upper ones to achieve a low centre of gravity.
This ensures that each coach has an equal load distribution, which is crucial for the stability of the train. If tickets were booked randomly, some coaches could end up being completely full, while others could be empty, leading to an uneven distribution of passengers. When the train takes a turn, some coaches could face maximum centrifugal force, while others could face minimum. This creates a high chance of derailment of the train. When brakes are applied, there will be different braking forces acting on each of the coaches due to the huge differences in weight of the coaches. This could again lead to instability and derailment of the train.
In addition to the physics of a moving train, there are practical considerations as well. Train travel is very popular in India, and the demand for seats is very high. If passengers were allowed to choose their own seats, there could be a rush to book the most popular seats, which could lead to confusion and chaos.
In conclusion, the Indian Railways does not allow passengers to choose seats because it ensures the safety and stability of the train. The booking software is designed in such a way that it distributes the load evenly in the train, thereby reducing the risk of accidents. While this may be inconvenient for passengers who prefer certain seats, it is a small price to pay for safe and comfortable train travel.