July 2013

Information Technology initiatives in Indian Railways

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The formal inauguration ceremony was performed on 16th April 1853, when 14 railway carriages carrying about 400 guests left Bori Bunder at 3.30 pm “amidst the loud applause of a vast multitude and to the salute of 21 guns.” The first passenger train steamed out of Howrah station destined for Hooghly, a distance of 24 miles, on 15th August, 1854

Satya Prakash, Additional Member (Tourism & Catering); Additional Member (IT), Railway Board, Ministry of Railways

Indian Railways has been pioneer in use of Information Technology in India. Indian Railways adopted Information Technology during 1960s for Passenger and Freight revenue accounting, operating statistics and Pay-roll and inventory management using IBM 1401 computers placed in Zonal data centers.
Subsequently, Center for Railway Information Systems (CRIS) was established at Chanakyapuri,New Delhi in 1986, with the aim of developing computerized systems for Passenger and Freight traffic segments on Indian Railways. The Vision of Indian Railways for IT is to reach a stage where all information needs of organization can be met by comprehensive information highway available to both internal and external stake holders and Improve personal productivity at all levels by effective use of technology.
Some of the major initiatives undertaken by the Indian Railways in the area of Passenger traffic are listed below:

Passenger Reservation System
Passenger Reservation System (PRS), introduced by the Indian Railways in Nov. 1985 at New Delhi station and then progressively expanded to cover all major stations of Indian Railways, was the first such initiative. It provided the passengers the convenience of reserving accommodation on trains from any station to any station. Five regional data centers namely at New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai and Secunderabad were established for this application. The geographical expansion of the system has resulted in this facility being provided at more than 3104 locations across the country,including 249 Post offices. The Passenger Reservation System is handling more than 3,000 trains involving on an average, 4.77 crore passengers/month with average earning of `2320.45 crores/month. SMS updates to all passengers regarding status of the waitlisted tickets is also planned.

Ticketing on Internet and Mobile phones
The facility to book reserved tickets on internet (I-tickets i.e. tickets booked on website and delivered by couriers) was introduced in 2003 through IRCTC (Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation) website namely www.irctc.co.in. This was later extended for e-tickets(passengers book tickets on website and take a printout of the ticket) in 2005. Lately, the facility to book these tickets from Mobile phones has also been provided on this website. To make things further convenient for the traveling public the MRM (Mobile Reservation Message sent as SMS to the passenger) and the VRM(Virtual Reservation Message – sent as e-mail to the passengers)are now treated as valid travel authority and it is not necessary for the passengers to take a printout of their tickets booked at the website.SMS updates are sent to all passengers holding e-tickets issued from IRCTC website at the time of booking/cancellation as well as whenever the status of the waitlisted ticket changes. The facility was started from 16th June 2011.

Mushkil Aasaan (Mobile Ticketing Vans)
For taking ticketing to the doorsteps of the passengers,Mushkil Aasaan scheme was launched and two Mobile Ticketing Vans were introduced, initially one van each at New Delhi and Kolkata (from Jan. 2010). Further expansion of the scheme has been planned by introducing 25 Mobile ticketing Vans for issuing PRS tickets on various zonal railways. Three such Vans have started functioning in Vapi, Jaipur and Anand from September 11, November 11 and June 12 respectively.

Unreserved Ticketing System
The Unreserved Ticketing System (UTS) was introduced in 2002 as a pilot project in Delhi area and then further expanded. The system enables the passengers to purchase tickets for unreserved accommodation on trains, three days in advance.These tickets could earlier be purchased only on the date of travel. The system has been expanded and is now available at 5690 stations across the country and is planned to cover all stations,except the smaller ‘Halt stations’. It serves approx.60.45 crore passengers / month earning revenue of approx. `1359.56crores/ month.

  • Ticketing has been taken to the doorstep of the customers. E-ticketing has now provided relief from long queues at the reservation offices. Mobile ticketing vans are also an extension of taking ticketing to the doorstep of the customers.
  • Booking tickets on mobile phones has also been introduced.
  • The Mobile Reservation Message and the Virtual Reservation Message(e-mail etc.) are also treated as valid tickets and therefore there is no need to carry a printed out paper ticket.
  • Information regarding Seat availability, PNR status, Arrival and Departure timings and running of the trains can now be obtained through SMS and also through websites.
  • SMS is also sent to the customers at the time of change of status of tickets for e-tickets only at present however this facility is planned to be extended to all passengers.
  • Parcels and luggage can also be booked through a computerized system which enables track and trace facility for the customers to track their consignments on the internet.
  • In case of freight traffic also the Railway receipts are now computerised and epayment facility has been extended to a large number of siding owners. This has enabled continuous loading as loading does not stop for preparation of Demand drafts from Banks on Sundays and other holidays.
  • Tracking of freight consignments has been provided on internet as well as through SMS which enables the customers to plan unloading and further actions more efficiently.
  • Indian Railways now provides better and reliable information to customers thereby improving customer satisfaction.

Automatic Ticket Vending Machines
Automatic Ticket Vending Machines (ATVMs)have been introduced in the suburban sections of the Metro cities namely Mumbai, Chennai,Secunderabad, Kolkata and Delhi. These machines are connected to the UTS servers and enable quick disbursal of unreserved and platform tickets by eliminating cash handling. Smart cards are used for purchasing tickets through these ATVMs. The Smart cards can be purchased by passengers from counters in booking offices at the stations. 811 such machines have been procured in near future. Further expansion is also planned including installation of currency operated machines as well.

National Train Enquiry System (NTES)
National Train Enquiry System has been commissioned at important stations across the country to provide accurate information about running of trains to the passengers through display boards etc. This information is also provided to the call centers of IRCTC which provide information telephonically/ through Interactive VoiceResponse System on a common no. 139. The information of NTES has been made available at www.trainenquiry.com. Integration of COA with NTES has been completed on all divisions.This helps in providing real time information to NTES for onward transmission of passenger train running information. The process of updating of train definition in NTES from PRS has also been automated.

Integrated Coach Management System
It is a browser based application running on intranet. The application has two modules,namely Punctuality Analysis and Monitoring (PAM) and Coaching Operations Information System (COIS). These have been implemented all over Indian Railways. The application assists in planning and running of passenger carrying trains. Information is being updated from 221 locations. Coach Maintenance Module (CMM),which would provide information regarding maintenance aspects of coaches, is being developed.

Indian Railways Commercial Portal
All 35 websites of Indian Railways have been migrated to a common platform (standardised and given uniform look and feel) and made online at www.indianrailways.gov.in. Website of IRT (Institute of Rail Transport) has also been made online recently. SMS based Complaint Management System has been made developed and deployed on the portal. A common number 132 will be established for lodging complaints/suggestions and connected to the Complaint Management System and Cloak Room module is being run, on pilot basis at New Delhi station.Retiring room booking application is being run as a pilot project at 37 stations and further it is planned to provide the facility of booking retiring – rooms on the internet after a payment gateway of Indian Railways is established.

Parcel Management System
A pilot project for computerisation of the Parcel traffic on Indian Railways has been successfully running at 10 stations of New Delhi – Howrah corridor. Four more stations have been covered.Extension of the System to cover all major corridors involving 228 stations (Golden Quadrilateral and its diagonals) has been planned.
Similarly the Indian Railways has launched many IT initiatives for ensuring better management of freight traffic and improvement of its back-office systems. Many more such initiatives are in the pipeline and over a period of time these IT initiatives will lead to significant improvement in the functioning of the Indian Railways .

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