Off the Rails: Why the Indian Railways’ UTS App is Pure Evil

Technology

Off the Rails: Why the Indian Railways’ UTS App is Pure Evil

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

Just like there are some people who want to watch the whole world burn, there are apps that seem to exist for the sole purpose of getting users to pull their hair out. And given my sparse pate, you can probably guess that I’m a victim of one such application — the Indian Railways’ UTS app.

For those fortunate enough to never have needed it, UTS is the Indian Railways’ app to book tickets for suburban railway travel. My first experience using it came when I needed to travel on a Mumbai local, and since then, I’ve been convinced that the app’s developers were keen on ensuring that the ticketing experience matched the hellish nature of the journey.

While I acknowledge that there are other bad apps out there, many are so because they were built on a budget and/or didn’t have access to good developers. That’s not the case here. When you first download the app, you will notice that there are a few truly ingenious features (and I use that term loosely) that must have taken some skill to deploy. The only problem is that this skill has been used to aid frustration rather than convenience.

The most common example of this is the “radius of booking”, which means you need to be within a very precise distance from a train station to be able to book tickets — not too far, not too close.

While most apps try their best to separate you from your money, UTS is refreshingly anti-capitalistic.

I don’t understand the outer limit of this — so if someone’s sitting in Dadar wanting to book a train originating in Andheri, 20 km away, they can’t? The inner limit, I understand — to avoid ticketless travel and booking on seeing the TC. But this is such a limited scenario (given how far and few checkings are) that it basically just seems like a cruel way to inconvenience the majority.

uts_app_railway

The inner limit, I understand — to avoid ticketless travel and booking on seeing the TC. But this is such a limited scenario that it basically just seems like a cruel way to inconvenience the majority.

UTS App

“Ah, I’m smart”, you say. “I’ll just use a GPS spoofer, haha!”. Well, I have news for you…

uts_app_railway

At this point, you’ll realise that these guys not only know what a GPS spoofer is, but also have the engineering chops to block it.

UTS App

At this point, you’ll realise that these guys not only know what a GPS spoofer is, but also have the engineering chops to block it. And now remember they decided to do that instead of improving the several other bugs.

Welcome to India’s most evil app, ladies and gentlemen.

There’s more. While most apps try their best to separate you from your money, UTS is refreshingly anti-capitalistic. Forget the frequent payment failures (whose colourful details litter the app’s reviews), there are some inexplicable peculiarities like not being able to book more multiple first-class tickets at once, or book multiple route season tickets.

Oh, and meanwhile, it takes a needlessly long number of steps to book anything at all, and if there’s a server issue/payment failure along the way (there will be!) you will need to start all over again. Diabolical! By this time, if your auto reaches the station, you’ll need to find that sweet spot where you are geographically permitted to book the ticket!

But the best — or most evil — feature, I reserve for the last: You can’t log onto the app from multiple devices.

Fair enough, you say, that’s for security and preventing sharing.

You need to deregister on the first phone.

Again, alright… Kinda makes sense, though if you lose your phone that can get tricky.

You can’t deregister if you have an active ticket. Okay, that makes sense, I suppose.

But then here’s the kicker — a season ticket counts as an active ticket!

So you technically can’t change your device unless your season ticket expires.

So you technically can’t change your device unless your season ticket expires. You have two options: Cart around your old phone JUST for the season ticket (as I did), or buy a new SIM for the new phone and buy a fresh season ticket, forsaking the old one. I thought this was an old issue, but turns out in February of 2020, a decade when the rest of the world is talking about 5G, neural networks and artificial intelligence, we have this:

uts_app_railway_review

You have two options: Cart around your old phone JUST for the season ticket (as I did), or buy a new SIM for the new phone and buy a fresh season ticket, forsaking the old one.

UTS App

And as for losing your phone — well, good luck.

What’s more, UTS has decided to make an already clunky app even more ponderous by putting in ads. Which makes sense for free ad-supported apps, but, as some reviews point out — why ads on what is essentially a government app, that too, one designed to make money off tickets?

Of course, I could list down several hundred more reasons why this app is a bad one, but I’ve just decided to stick to the features that make it decidedly evil. So the next time you see someone staring at their phone, yelling into the air, moving bit by bit further away from the station, go put a hand on their shoulder, empathise and advise them to buy a paper ticket from the queue instead!

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