RailRadar — the Indian Railways’ map-based train tracker

The online ticketing portal of the Indian Railways (IR) is one of the most active e-commerce portals in the country. The RailRadar service, which gives you near real-time visual information about trains via Google Maps, adds a dimension to IR’s online presence.

Passengers are looking for information beyond just Estimated Time of Arrival (ETA) of trains and availability of reservations. With RailRadar, you can see where a train is at any time, which trains are at a particular location, and more. We spoke to Manish Rathi, Co-Founder, Railyatri, about how the project came along, and what went into making it a success.

How was this idea conceived?

Indian Railways / CRIS and RailYatri.in have always been looking at ways to disseminate information to IR passengers in a meaningful way, to help them plan their travel better. We launched the new version of TrainEnquiry.com in April 2012, so that passengers can get fast and reliable information in an intuitive way. A few months later, we realised that passengers had other needs, which could be well-communicated in a visual / graphical way. That’s when we started putting together the idea behind RailRadar.

How can you relay accurate information about train positions? Do the trains feature a GPS tracker?

IR has monitoring points for passing trains at more than 6000 locations around the country. These points communicate, in real-time, updates on train arrivals, departures, and passing, to a central server. In some cases, these updates are automated. At some places and in some situations, the reporting is done manually. The IR has also started using GPS to track trains in a few locations; this is on an experimental basis.

Can the data on RailRadar be misused in anyway?

The information on RailRadar is public knowledge. We do not include any passenger-level details (such as PNR status and other ticketing information). Plus, train information is delayed by at least five minutes for security reasons.

Are there plans to include local rail services as well?

RailRadar already covers local railway services in many cities, including Delhi, Chennai, and Kolkata. We are investigating how trains in other cities can be included.

RailRadar and the online ticketing service run parallel in terms of providing essential information. Will you be tying up with IRCTC?

No, at present our focus is on actual train movement. We are not looking at ticketing.

Can we expect additional features in the near future? Would the service come up as an app for smartphone platforms?

Building up features associated with RailRadar is an ongoing activity. At present, we are keen to understand how passengers are using RailRadar for their travel needs. We hope features can be developed based on that learning. We are also looking to create a mobile version too.

Do you see this application merging with Google Transit, which lets you plan travel by public transport?

There is certainly a possibility, but we are at a very early stage to speculate along those lines.

How has the response to this new initiative been?

The response to RailRadar has been tremendous — not just in India but worldwide. In its first week of its launch, RailRadar was noted as the top talked-about Map-based application across the world. There are a few other countries where trains are tracked on a map, but reviewers of this site have acknowledged that it is the largest and most complex. RailRadar has also featured on many worldwide technology bulletins such as Engadget.com. People everywhere have appreciated the progress that the Indian Railways has made in terms of technology and information dissemination.

http://www.techtree.com/content/features/2064/interview-manish-rathi-founder-railyatri.html

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