April 2008

Key IT Initiatives

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Introduction
Indian Railways is one of the largest and busiest rail networks in the world and an important mode of public transportation in India. Since its inception, 155 years ago, the Indian Railways has contributed significantly to India's transport needs and economic growth. Today, Indian Railways ranks among the top five National Railway Systems in terms of size and scale and is poised to emerge as a world class railway system. The developmental role of the railways is particularly important in India, in both passenger and freight sectors. It has been performing a valuable social role in passenger sector by providing affordable means of relatively safe and efficient transportation for millions of passengers daily. As a carrier of bulk freight such as ores and minerals, grains, fertilisers, mineral oils, iron and steel, container cargo etc., the cost advantages of the railways are well known. In consonance with the increased expectations and present requirements  various IT related measures have been taken for making Indian Railways one of the most efficient railway network in the world.

Passenger Reservation System

Centre for Railway Information Systems (CRIS) software called Countrywide Network of Computerised Enhanced Reservation and Ticketing (CONCERT), based on state-of-the-art client server technology, has been installed at all  the Passenger Reservation System (PRS). Complete networking of PRS has proved to be a conducive for the passengers  who are able to book accommodation on any train from  any location.

Currently, PRS is running at more than 1,400 locations more than 5,000 terminals, and is handling more than 3,000 trains, involving more than one million passenger transactions per day, with a peak of 1.8 million passengers on a day in March 2007. CRIS is responsible for maintenance and enhancement to CONCERT Software. System hardware maintenance management is also being done by CRIS.

PRS Migration of Database from Flat Files to RDBMS

CRIS had submitted a proposal  for porting of CONCERT to open hardware and software platform called Relational Data Base Management System (RDBMS). CONCERT is a very complex legacy application consisting of 2.5 million lines of code, involving complex business logic. It supports more than 1 million reservation/cancellation/modification transactions and 10 million enquiries in a day. It delivers a response time of less than a second for local transactions and less than three seconds for network transactions. As there were no case studies available to support the premise that an application like CONCERT can be migrated to RDBMS without any performance issues, there was a need to carry out a Proof of Concept (POC) project. This POC included load simulation and response time analysis of important use cases like reservation, availability enquiry, PNR enquiry, charting, summary and Driving Trailer Car (DTC).

Project Description

It is proposed to have a Disaster Management Site in Secunderabad  catering to the five PRS sites. A POC  for the study of feasibility and performance related issues has been planned. This will be followed up by a pilot project for Disaster Management Site of PRS-Delhi which will identify  business processes and implementation issues. Subsequently, All India Disaster Management Site Implementation would be undertaken for all five PRS sites

Current Status

Disaster Recovery (DR) capable SAN Storage boxes have been procured and installed at Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai and Mumbai PRS sites as a part of PRS upgradation. Scope of POC is being worked out with private players for testing the storage data replication software between Delhi and Secunderabad.

TTE's Hand Held Terminals Project (HHT Project)

The envisaged objective of this project is to computerise the on-board passenger interface operations, performed manually by the Traveling Ticket Examiners (TTEs). Under this project, the TTEs will be provided with a Handheld Computing Terminal (HHT), which will be linked, to the Central Reservation Computer through a wireless network (GPRS provided by Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited). As a pilot project, this is to be implemented on New Delhi – Amritsar Shatabdi, New Delhi­ Dehradun Shatabdi, Mumbai – Ahmedabad Shatabdi and Mumbai – Amritsar Golden Temple Mail Express trains in two phases.

Current Status

  • The application software for the first phase has been developed and internally tested. However, as per latest  requirements, modifications in the applications are being carried out.
  • On-train testing has been conducted on New Delhi-Lucnkow Shatabdi, New Delhi-Amritsar Shatabdi and Kashi-Vishwanath Express on the GPRS connection leased from BSNL for testing the network availability on moving trains.
  • TTEs of the Amritsar Shatabdi route were given training and hands-on practice in a workshop organised by CRIS.

Unreserved Ticket System (UTS)

UTS was started by the Indian Railways on 15th August 2002, at 23 stations of Delhi area over Northern Railways as a pilot project. The UTS was subsequently expanded to other important stations of Northern Railways and thereafter to other Railways starting from East Central Railways. This system is functioning at 2882 counters on 892 locations over Indian Railways as on 2nd October 2007. The comparative position of UTS indicating the number of locations where UTS was functioning is given as under:

Position as on No. of Locations
31.03.2003 23
31.03.2005 126
31.03.2006 588
31.03.2007 892

Around 23,000 UTS are expected by 31st March 2009. Railway Board has sanctioned a proposal for “Capacity Enhancement and Disaster Management System of UTS Servers” over Indian Railways. The comparative position of ticketing being handled by UTS as on August 2006, March 2007 and June 2007 is given as under:

 Automatic Ticket Vending Machines (ATVMs)

August2006 March2007 June2007
No. of tickets issued per day (in millions) 2.086 2.59 3.098
No. of passengers handled per day (in millions) 4.664 0.803 10.758
Earnings per day (in INR/millions) 130.3 161.1 198.1

Initially, a work for 300 ATVMs was sanctioned for  Mumbai area. Subsequently, 450 more ATVMs were sanctioned for other Railways. 117 ATVMs have been made functional on the Western Railways suburban system by 11th October 2007.

Commercial Portal

In his budget speech for 2007-08, the Hon'ble Minister for Railways Shri Lalu Prasad Yadav mentioned that “A Commercial Portal will be developed in the next three years for yield management, especially, to attract traffic for returning empty and filling up vacant seats.” With the above end in view, interactions were held with IT majors like TCS, WIPRO, INFOSYS etc.

Specifications with regard to user requirements for three modules of Passenger Business, Parcel Business and Freight Business for the Commercial Portal have been finalised and the same were furnished to CRIS for making out the RFQ. The functions of auction of empty seats/berths and online bidding of rakes in empty flow direction to generate additional revenue will be included only after clarifications on the issue is obtained from a Legal Adviser.

 Integrated Coach Management System (ICMS)

The ICMS modules are hosted on central servers located in CRIS and accessed by remote locations via the Freight Operations Information System (FOIS) network. There are 338 terminals from 196 locations connected to ICMS. These 196 locations cover zonal headquarters (16, including Konkan Railways, but excluding NCR where the terminal is not operative due to connectivity issues), divisional headquarters, stations and yards.

Software Modules

Coaching Stock Management Module
This module tracks status and utilisation of individual coaches over Indian Railways. It became operational in  April 2006 with Nizamuddin Station as the first location. Its usage has gradually increased since then. The  module has been extensively field tested and debugged. It meets all functional end use requirements set down for  this module.

Punctuality Module

The Punctuality Module was made operational in February 2004 and was migrated to the new system in September 2006. All reports produced manually in the Board were implemented accordingly and made available online. These reports have been tested and vetted by the concerned officials from the Punctuality Cell of Railway Board.

Maintenance Module

Maintenance module has been recently added to the scope of Integrated Coaching Management System (ICMS). The end user requirements were collected from the Zonal Railways and sent by Board in May 2007. These requirements are however, only indicators of differing perceptions of the end users and cannot be taken as user requirements. Therefore, only two major depots and one minor depot shall be covered at this stage. However, solution that is developed would permit fast rollout to all locations as soon as that part is sanctioned.

User Acceptance

Both the COIS and Punctuality Modules of ICMS have been accepted by the users and these have been adopted by all the Zonal Railways. However, new functional and usability requirements have emerged as the system began to be adopted. Therefore, a second development cycle to address user requirements in Version 2 of ICMS has been taken up.

Freight Operation Information System

FOIS is an online transaction processing based application providing a 'track and trace' solution for account of cargo, freight and rolling stock assets of Indian Railways. It is a system assisting managers for monitoring and management of assets for optimum utilisation and providing timely information to the customer for supply chain management.

The current phase of FOIS comprises of two modules – Rake Management System (RMS) for handling the train operations and Terminal Management System (TMS) for commercial processes of Indian Railway's core business. The application has three-tier client server architecture using RDBMS,  Middleware and Front-end. The system generates more than 1200 reports either online or through mailbox accessed by web.

Rake Management System (RMS)

About 2200 reporting and monitoring devices have been commissioned at more than 700 locations, out of which around 240 locations are exclusively reporting for RMS module. These locations and devices have been networked through railway owned digital microwave and OFC complemented by dedicated lease lines and V-sat hired from BSNL and Hughes Escorts Communications Limited (HECL). RMS provides instant access to load/train pipeline information, status of rakes and rolling stock assets across the Railway network in India for operations planning, control and logistics management. Reports and queries are being customised for specific users.

Terminal Management System (TMS)

TMS has already been deployed at around 500 locations and, with the availability of V-sat connectivity, it is expected to cover all major handling terminals (521 locations) to issue online Railway Receipts (RRs) by the end of the financial year. Currently, online RRs are being generated at more than 300 locations. It has now been proposed by the Railways to commission new TMS locations at places where at least five  outward and inward rakes are handled in a month.

Complete deployment of TMS shall facilitate invoice based consignment tracking, instant RR generation and track instances of unconnected/wrongly delivered wagons. The system also has provision for booking consignments from customer centres. Currently, major customers are being provided the load pipeline with expected date and time of arrival of their consignment at destination point through a daily e-mail.

e-Payment of Freight

A pilot project started in January 2005, for electronic payment of freight for coal booked for Badarpur Thermal Power Station (BTPS) from Katrasgarh and is now being implemented at all locations on East Central Railways (ECR) from where coal loading is done for BTPS. The originating point electronically intimates the freight charges to the customer's bank. After receipt of successful transaction a RR is printed at the originating point and handed over to the consignor. It is a synchronous transaction and the reply is received  within 150 seconds under normal circumstances.

After signing on tripartite agreement between Railways, Customers and the Bankers, the facility is going to be extended on IR. Currently, three such agreements are under process of finalisation (one each in CR, WR and SWR). With e-Payment system, it would be possible to adopt centralised billing system for large customers doing regular loading/unloading across Indian Railways.

Control Office Application

The Control Office Application (COA) was developed as a pilot project and the implementation has been planned in three phases. After gap analysis of the first phase divisions, the customisation of software has been completed. The commissioning of the COA software will be dove tailed with the hardware installation and is expected to be completed by the end of March 2008.

Parcel Management System

The project for computerisation of parcel services at seven stations of Delhi­ – Howrah corridor (New Delhi, Delhi, Kanpur, Allahabad, Gaya, Howrah and Sealdah) was sanctioned in September 2005. Software development for the project, has been completed by CRIS. Full scale implementation was completed at New Delhi and Delhi stations in June 2007. The PMS developed by CRIS enables end to end tracking of parcels (from booking to delivery) through bar coding and automatic capture of weight from electronic weighing machines.

Crew Management System (CMS)

The pilot phase of the CMS project has been completed. The modules like freight, shunting, coaching, SMS call server and alerts, crew monitoring, caution order, circulars, quiz for evaluation of crew knowledge, has been completed as well. Over 150 CMS implementers have been trained  through regular training batches  since September 2007.­

Web Enabled Claims Phase-II (Refund goods, RCT and Subsidiary claims)

Sanctioned in June 2005, the project covers the implementation at 48 locations. The software development for the three sub-groups has been completed and tested by the Railways Claims Tribunal (RCT). The refund goods application has already been implemented with effect from1st July 2006, at all the Zonal Railways.

ERP for Human Resource Management System

The Indian Railways is planning to introduce Human Resource Management functions through IT platform. In this regard, the IR is adopting a new bidding process for interested IT firms. The Railways has decided to implement the project on a Build, Own, Operate and Transfer (BOOT) basis. The adoption of BOOT model will spare Railways from making heavy upfront investments. From a Railways perspective, the cost would be spread over a longer period and subject to satisfactory project implementation. This is the first software project for the Railways to be taken up on a BOOT basis.

The project will help the Railways serve its 1.4 million employees and 1 million pensioners in a better manner. The project would has specially designed component on e-Learning. The project will also identify staff who have not received specific trainings and arrange trainings accordingly. The IT arm of Indian Railways, CRIS, would be implementing the project.

IT Projects of IRCTC

Web Based Rail Reservation System

For selling e and i-Tickets of Indian Railways, IRCTC has designed an e-­Commerce portal where the web based rail reservations are done. It was launched in the year 2002 and sale of tickets has reached to 45,000 tickets per day from few hundreds. www.irctc.co.in  has more than 40 lakh registered users and in terms of transactions, it is the biggest e-Commerce site of India.

Tourism Portal

IRCTC has also designed a tourism portal www.railtourismindia.com   which facilitates online booking of tourist trains like Buddhist train; fairy queen with agents modules, cab booking, train booking and hotel booking facilities.

Integrated Train Enquiry System (ITES)

Implementation of ITES based on Public Private Partnership (PPP) model. It has been assigned to IRCTC jointly with CRIS. IRCTC has been responsible for the successful development of the PPP model and overall implementation and management of the project. While CRIS has been responsible for formalising the Architecture and Technology and for the back end integration with PRS and National Train Enquiry System (NTES). Operation and Maintenance of the Zonal Hubs and call centres is being done by the Rail Enquiry Franchisee.

ITES consists of four centres (North, South, East and West) to handle calls. Each centre consists of a Zonal Hub and a call centre. The Zonal Hubs are located in the PRS centres at Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Howrah. The servers and the IVRS (Integrated Voice Response System) equipment are located at these centres. Enquiries  are accessible from all telecom service providers, irrespective of the type of telecom service (basic, mobile, WLL services etc.). The subscriber shall be able to access these services by making a local call  through out the country.

Future Activities

IRCTC is associating with banks for the issue of e-Ticket from their ATMs. For bookings through ATM kiosks of SBI, UBI, PNB, BOB, Dena Bank, Canara Bank and Indian Bank, POC has been finalised with SBI and UBI and remaining integration is in process. In addition to this, initiatives are being taken  for booking tickets through call centres.  
Courtesy: Indian Railways

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