Railways to SMS on reservation, train status

Indian Railways may soon begin sending SMS messages on train punctuality and seat reservations to passengers, just like airlines.

Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee Wednesday said in her budget speech that her ministry was taking several initiatives to improve passenger satisfaction. These included SMS updates of reservation status and punctuality of trains to passengers and SMS updates on the movement of wagons to freight customers.

The railways also proposed to induct e-ticket based mobile vans for issuing reservation tickets in government medical college hospitals, high courts, district courts, university campuses, IT hubs, IITs and IIMs.

Ticket centres will also be opened at district headquarters and village panchayats with state and private support.

http://news.webindia123.com/news/ar_showdetails.asp?id=1002240504&cat=&n_date=20100224

Missed calls help passengers track delays

 NEW DELHI: Fog continues to wreak havoc on train schedules but there is one group of passengers which has devised a method to figure out delays and cancellations. Using this method which relies, interestingly, on missed calls, the daily passengers association on the Delhi-Palwal and Delhi-Rewari routes has been giving half-hourly updates.

According to passenger B L Sharma, who uses the Delhi-Palwal route, this is how it works: A commuter at the station sends a missed call to another passenger travelling on the train, asking her for an update on the train. If the train is 10 minutes late, the passenger repliles with one missed call. If there is a delay of 20 minutes, there are two missed calls. Three missed calls mean the delay is for over 20 minutes.

If the call is disconnected within five seconds even as the passenger on the platform makes the call, it signals that the train has been cancelled. If it gets a ‘busy mode’ response, the message is that the train is over an hour late. If you receive one missed call and then receive another missed call a few moments later, it is presumed that the train is delayed by over an hour.

Passengers say the station masters in smaller stations too have informally began collecting information through this system. “The beauty of the system is that it is cost-free and benefits both the passengers and railways. It is also the fastest,” said Smita Aggarwal, a daily passenger from Rewari. Station officials acknowledge its usefulness. “We often use this information and check it with our control room to make announcements,” said an officer at the Tilak Bridge station.

 http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/Missed-calls-help-passengers-track-delays/articleshow/5493684.cms

Role of IT in Indian Railways

For the Railways, every IT initiative has to revolve around the strategic inclusion of customers according R B Das, Group General Manager – (FOIS), CRIS

Technology Sabha, the premier e-governance event organized by the Business Publications Division (BPD) of The Indian Express Limited, is fast becoming a can’t miss event for Indian bureaucrats serious about championing the cause of IT in their respective agencies. In what was the fifth iteration of the Sabha, they came from all over the country and the congregation witnessed a mix of nearly 100 high profile government officials, vendors and technocrats from diverse backgrounds.

Organized in the laidback town of Panjim, Goa, the discussions and the debates witnessed over the course of two days were anything but laidback. The event provided a much needed platform to government officials responsible for IT, to freely discuss ideas, share experiences and learnings amongst themselves and also to do some much needed introspection to better the state of affairs.

The event began with a lamp lighting ceremony and a brief welcome address by Sandeep Khosla, VP & Head-BPD. Post this, began a stimulating presentation by R B Das, Group General Manager (FOIS), CRIS, in which he talked at length about some of the IT initiatives in the Indian Railways and the role that they have played in transforming it from a loss-making outfit into a highly profitable, well-oiled entity.

Talking about the massive infrastructure and assets owned by the Indian Railways, Das began with a historical perspective and delved deeply into how they managed it all, albeit not so efficiently with minimal IT systems in place. He alluded to their humble beginnings of automation through the setting up of EDP centers and the decision to computerize the freight information and passenger reservation systems in the early years.

According to Das, the continuous increase in passenger and freight handling requirements and the associated assets, competition from other modes of transport especially in the freight business and the overall growth of the country’s needs were the drivers that forced the railways to reassess their strategies and widen the scope of IT.

Another key factor was the strategic inclusion of the customer as an integral part of the system. Hence, it chose to design a system which matched the capabilities of internal as well as external customers. This essentially meant that the applications needed to transcend the boundaries of the Railways as an organization and went into the user domain.

Despite the fact that the freight business is the real breadwinner, for the Railways, its passengers have always been the first priority. Therefore, when it came to implementing technologies, the passenger business processes were given preference over freight.

The implementation of the Country Wide Network for Computerized Enhanced Reservation (CONCERT) was a clear indication of this fact. CONCERT integrates five regional reservation centers and contains a judicious mix of local autonomy with uniformity of business rules. Das informed that CONCERT can perform reservations for over one million seats and berths per day and is currently available for over 3,600 trains nationwide for various classes across 1,700 locations.

The other significant system implemented by the railway has been the National Train Enquiry Services (NTES), a nationwide, integrated, online information system for monitoring the running of passenger trains and providing up-to-date information regarding the arrival and departure of trains. The PRS initiatives not only benefited passengers in terms of simplifying enquiry, booking and other processes but yielded multiple benefits for the Railways as well.

The Railways could now push for optimal utilization of berths, real-time availability of accounting reports, planning through MIS, analysis of traffic patterns for better overall planning, reduction in revenue losses and savings on manpower.

In his presentation, Das took special pride in talking about UTS Thin Client, a customized product developed by CRIS. He informed that since a normal thin client needs to be connected to a server all the time, CRIS developed a thin client that does not need always-on connectivity. In fact, the UTS Thin Client is capable of working independently and in disconnected mode for 72 hours (a configurable parameter) and issue tickets. It runs a lightweight OS, trimmed version of RDBMS and application on a 144 MB Flash ROM (Disk on Chip).

Although Das talked mostly about the railways’ IT initiatives on the passenger business side, he did not fail to mention some key initiatives on the freight side. Freight Operations Information System or FOIS comprises of a variety of applications implemented by the railways to streamline freight operations and optimize the use of existing resources and bring in greater transparency to the system. The various applications in FOIS are: Rake Management System (RMS), Terminal Management System (TMS), Control Office Application (COA), Crew Management System (CMS), Automated Equipment Identifier (AEI), Revenue Accounting System (RAS) and Management Information System (MIS).

Speaking about some of the other applications the railways has in the pipeline, Das informed that the organization was currently working on a Fixed Asset Management System, Human Resource Management System, Parcel Management System, Claims Management System, and Workshop Management System and was also in the process of setting up zonal data centers.

He concluded his presentation with a proclamation that a large complex infrastructure system such as the Indian Railways could never afford to simply bring in technology for the sake of itself, but intelligent use of IT is what is delivering the real benefits.

http://www.expresscomputeronline.com/20090223/technologysabha200901.shtml