Introduction Indian railways is still by far the most popular means of public transport for long distance travel. Though people may argue nowadays that air travel has gained more popularity as it has become more affordable and saves time but when it comes to comfort of travel, people still prefer railways. Hence, being a popular means of transport, there is a rush for railway ticket booking almost throughout the year. People struggle to get confirmed railway tickets if they do not plan their journey well in advance.
Now, talking about confirmed railway ticket, I would say it is the most relaxing experience for a person booking railway ticket when he or she sees confirmed status on their ticket with coach and berth number mentioned. On the other hand, anguish and sadness on people's faces are evident when they get a ticket with waiting list (WL) status. So now only hope for such people is to wait for cancellations to happen and ticket to get confirmed by the date of journey.
Analysing waiting list Many of you might have noted that whenever railway ticket status is waiting list (WL), there will always be two waiting list numbers on the ticket. For example WL7/4. Some people might not be aware as to which number out of the two is their actual waiting list number, so intent behind this article is to clear this little confusing aspect of the way in which WL is depicted in Indian railway tickets. To clarify this, second WL number is your actual WL number and shows your current position in the WL queue. For example in WL7/4, 4 is your actual waiting list number. This is the number which you track on periodic basis to see whether your WL has moved or not. When cancellations happen this number keeps on reducing. On the other hand the first WL number is a fixed number which shows WL number which a tpassenger would have got if no cancellations had happened for the ticket for that particular date of journey. Same holds true for RAC tickets. For example RAC tickets will show RAC number as RAC6/4.
Let us understand by example Suppose on 1st July you booked a ticket for a particular train for the date of journey, 25th July and you got ticket with waiting list status as WL12/7. Now considering 4 months advance reservation period, reservation for 25th July would have already started approximately on 25th of March. So now this waiting list status on your ticket which is WL12/7 means that in the time period between 25th March, when advanced reservation started to 1st July, when you booked the ticket waiting list queue had reached 12. But due to some cancellations also happening alongside in this period WL number at the time you booked the ticket had already reduced to 7, which means 5 (12-7) cancellations happened in that period. Assuming that no cancellations had happened during this period your waiting list number would have been WL12/12. So the idea behind whole concept is that first WL number shows the maximum waiting list number reached for a particular train at some point of time in its booking period while second WL number reflects position of the waiting list queue at the current moment of time and it can either be less than first number, if cancellations happened in between or it would be equal to the first number in case no cancellations happened. Under no circumstances it can be more than the first waiting list number. So when you track your waiting list number you should always track the second number as this is the one which reduces and can change to confirmed or RAC status if there are sufficient cancellations.
One more important point is that when you look for your final waiting list status in railway station reservation charts (this is prepared about 4 hours before the scheduled departure of the train and stuck outside train coach or pasted at railway platforms), then you should always search it with your first waiting list number because that is the fixed number and railway reservation charts are prepared keeping this as reference. If you start searching it with your second WL number, then you will not be able to locate your name as railways do not consider second WL number for listing in a chart as it's a variable number.
Significance It would be interesting here to note that when we are making a reservation enquiry and we see waiting list status, we can easily draw some conclusions regarding rush conditions prevailing in a train and cancellations happening for a train.
For the same train with same number of seats, you would see different waiting list numbers for rush periods like summer vacations etc and lean period like August, February etc. For example, in rush period you can see waiting list status as WL34/30 whereas in a lean period for the same train, same class and same number of seats, you will see waiting list status as WL14/4. So what conclusion can we draw from here? We can conclude that in the peak season waiting list is high and number of cancellations are also less. (34-30=4 cancellations in above example) whereas in the lean season waiting list is low and number of cancellations are also high (14-4=10 cancellations in above example). But it's important here to remember that this may have variations and cannot be taken as a rule.
So to conclude, from double waiting list numbers we can get some idea about amount of rush prevailing in a train and also magnitude of cancellations happening.
The author has explained the significance of two waiting list numbers given in the ticket. He has explained it in simple words so that the reader will not have any confusion. I appreciate the author for his nice work.
When you go to the station and want to check your ticket status, I think it is better to search the chart using your name or PNR number to know the correct status. Even in online search also the PNR number is asked which is unique for each ticket. Your name also will be there in the chart. So you can search using your name
A really helpful article to demystify the Indian Railways' waiting list numbers.