Will ICT Transform Indian Railways?

Will-ICT-Transform-Indian-Railways?Suresh Prabhakar Prabhu’s one idea for Indian Railways is transformation of Indian Railways.

Railway Budget 2015-16 presented by the railway minister focuses on transformation of Indian Railways in the next four years using ICT (information and communications technology).

For transformation, Indian Railways is planning to invest Rs 856,020 crore by 2019 for network decongestion, network expansion, national projects, safety, information technology, rolling stock, passenger amenities, high speed rail and station redevelopment.

Indian Railways is planning to invest Rs 5,000 crore in information technology, Rs 12,500 crore in passenger amenities and Rs 127,000 crore in safety for signalling and telecom.

Proposed Investment Plan (2015-2019)
Network Decongestion (including DFC, electrification, doubling including electrification and traffic facilities) – Rs 199,320 crore
Network Expansion (including electrification) – Rs 193,000 crore
National Projects (North Eastern & Kashmir connectivity projects) – Rs 39,000 crore
Safety (track renewal, bridge works, ROB, RUB and Signalling & Telecom) – Rs 127,000 crore
Information Technology/Research – Rs 5,000 crore
Rolling Stock (locomotives, coaches, wagons – production & maintenance) – Rs 102,000 crore
Passenger Amenities – Rs 12,500 crore
High Speed Rail & Elevated corridor – Rs 65,000 crore
Station redevelopment and logistic parks – Rs 100,000 crore
Others – Rs 13,200
Total Investment Plan – Rs 856,020 crore

ICT will be at the forefront of Indian Railways transformation be it for grievance redressal, ticketing, advertising, passenger conveniences, passenger safety and internal working of Indian Railways.

Grievance Redressal: For grievances, an all – India 24X7 helpline number, 138, will become functional to attend to the problems of passengers on a real time basis. Passengers will be able to call up for complaints while on trains. A mobile application to redress Railway-related complaints is also being developed. We intend to start this facility on a pilot project basis on Northern Railway from 1st March, 2015. Based on the experienced gained and the feedback received from passengers, this will be extended to all Railways soon thereafter.

Ticketing: In Central Railway, Western Railway and Southern Railway suburban sections, Railways have started a pilot project of issuing unreserved tickets on smartphones. This facility will be extended to all stations. Indian Railways is also exploring the idea of extending the facility of SMS on mobiles as a valid proof of travel for PRS tickets as well.

The Railways is planning to install automatic ticket vending machines with smart cards and currency options at many stations. Hand-held terminals will now be provided to Travelling Ticket Examiners (TTEs), which can be used for verification of passengers and downloading charts.

Advertising: In the next two years, Railways is planning to introduce centrally managed Railway Display Network in over 2,000 stations over the next two years which will aid in providing information on train arrival/departure, reservations, general and emergency messages and also any other information of interest to citizens. This facility will promote “Digital India Campaign” and also unlock huge advertising revenue potential.

Passenger Conveniences: Railways is putting in place an integrated customer portal, which will be a single interface for the customers to access different services. The Railways is also planning to introduce an “SMS Alert” service to inform passengers in advance the updated arrival/departure time of trains at starting or destination stations. Similarly SMS alert would be sent 15/30 minutes in advance of arrival of the train at the destination.

Wi-Fi at all A1 and A category stations is being provided. Further, as part of Digital India initiative, Wi-Fi will be provided at B category stations as well. Focus is also on moving towards paperless ticketing and charting and expediting finalization of refund claims apart from saving reams of paper.

Passenger Safety: Railways have dedicated toll-free number 182 for receiving security related complaints and would utilize resources from the Nirbhaya Fund for augmenting security of women passengers. For the safety of our women passengers, surveillance cameras will be provided on a pilot basis in selected mainline coaches and ladies’ compartments of suburban coaches without compromising on privacy.

Internal Working: Indian Railways will shortly unveil an IT vision for the Railways. Online information on latest berth availability on running trains, an integrated mobile application including station navigation system, etc. will be made available. Customer friendly freight movement initiatives such as introduction of bar coded/RFID tracking of parcels and freight wagons, automated parcel warehouses, customer relationship management system, etc will be undertaken. There will be an integration of train control and asset management applications.

Indian Railways is also proposing to expand paperless working in our material management system. The vendors will be digitally integrated through Vendor Interface Management System to provide single window interface. Encroachment on Railway land is a serious issue and to counter this, digitized mapping of land records has been initiated.

Indian Railways recruits various categories of employees through its 21 recruitment boards. As a major transparency initiative, the system of on-line applications has been introduced for two categories as a pilot project which is extended to include all future recruitment.

All this will help in giving a facelift to Indian Railways in a big way and will help in benefiting all be it customers, employees and government.

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