Indians prefer trains for long distance travel: Study

A recent study of railways shows that the trains continue to be the most preferred medium for long distance travel in India.

The survey conducted by shows that 76 percent travellers in India prefer trains for long distance travel, while 50 percent people take trains to visit their hometowns and cities.

“It is now reaffirmed by this study that railway is the lifeline of the Indian travellers,” said Manish Rathi, chief executive officer of

Not only for long distance travel, trains have also emerged as the popular mode of transport for daily commutation.

“This study aligns with the traditional view that the train is a popular mode of transport for comfortable travelling in our country,” Rathi added. provides the Indian railway passengers personalised real time updates on their journey through internet, email, text messages and voice messages.

Indian Railways to offer personalised alerts, wake-up calls

It’s the next best thing to trains running on time: travellers can look forward to alert messages on their phone in case their train is delayed or cancelled.

Indian Railways plans to provide a slew of personalised services that can match airlines, including wake-up call, in collaboration with, a subsidiary of Stelling Tech.

RailYatri and railways’ IT arm Centre of Railway Information Systems (CRIS) are also working on a smartphone app to provide real-time information on the position of trains and predictions on their expected time of arrival in different stations.

“We’re looking at providing services like wake-up calls and informing passengers if there are any changes in the schedule of the train they are booked in like delays or cancellations through SMS or phone calls,” Manish Rathi, CEO and co-founder of, says. “It can even be to alert someone on the position of a train so they can receive their family at the station on time,” he adds.

At present, RailYatri already offers real-time details on routes, location of trains and even predictions on expected time of arrival for up to 6,500 trains running at any given point of time, on their website called Rail Radar.

They are also working on providing detailed visualised information on how any particular train travels over weeks or months and where delays usually occur online.

The plan is to expand services and features in a way that answers all possible queries passengers may have and provide direct information instead of passengers having to hunt for data themselves.

An Android app is being worked on to make the current services available to a larger consumer base and should be launched in the coming few months.

“We are fine-tuning some features. We want to ensure it will work on all platforms including iPhones, Windows system and Blackberry,” Rathi says.

A dedicated website for summer special trains

There is good news for people who want information regarding special trains being run by the Indian Railways during summer. The Centre for Railway Information Systems (CRIS) has launched a new micro-site dedicated to summer specials trains in collaboration with

Information on all the 143 trains launched for the summer season will be available on

The dedicated mini-site will allow users to search for trains by station names. The site provides users with a compiled list of specific trains and includes detailed information on schedules, halts en-route, and composition of coaches.

According to CRIS, the initiative is an attempt at providing customised solutions to passengers. It will continue to share updated lists of trains with travellers as the summer progresses. uses crowdsourced information to give real-time railway updates.

Where has the train reached? Which station? Is it on time? These questions often make you anxious when loved ones are aboard. But, getting answers may not always be possible. Hold onto your horses! Noida-headquartered now gives a user updated information about train movement. covers around 80 per cent of 3.29 million square kms of India with 7,500 trains/week, 9000 train stations and 20 million daily travellers to share real time updates with passengers. Another brainchild, RailRadar gives real time visualization of all trains running in India on Google Maps, an endeavour that received visibility in international media.

Using the site, the company, in collaboration with CRIS (Centre for Railway Information Systems), help users zoom the map and get details of a train’s movement along a particular station.In addition, users can search for a particular train and also get the running status, location, route and stoppages of a train. Status of a train – whether it is on time or not – can also be obtained on the website.

“All of us including our dear ones are regular users of Indian Railways. When we started, there was simply a mission to figure out how and in what way can the simple question of ‘Where my train is’ be answered by the passengers,” is how Manish Rathi, the co-founder and CEO of RailYatri, describes his idea.

Rathi has worked across the telecommunications, wireless and software industries for nearly 16 years.A US patent holder, Rathi completed his dual masters from Michigan and did his Bachelors in Production Engineering from the University of Mumbai. A technology enthusiast, Manish is also an avid blogger.

Interestingly, Rathi is not alone in his venture. He has Sachin Saxena as co-founder.

A Stanford and IIT Graduate; Sachin has over 20 years’ experience with enterprise software start-ups and established companies. His experience spans leadership roles in professional services with teams in the US, India, Ukraine, Japan, and Argentina.

According to Rathi, the idea for the website came up during a train journey. While taking one, he had difficulty in locating the train.

“It occurred to me that if a 8 by 10 inch courier be located at various stages of its transit, there has to be a better way to get the right location of a train,” he added. Thus was born RailYatri.

Of course startups have their share of labour troubles. And it was no different for RailYatri. Conceptualising and executing a solution targeted at 80 per cent of India’s travel base involves dealing with overwhelming numbers.

“With the evolution of platforms such as Facebook, Google and Twitter, there has been a fundamental change in the manner in which information is consumed by people. People now want information customised to their requirements delivered promptly via medium of their choice,” says Rathi

The key was to make smart decisions – in areas such as product management, technology & R&D.

Engaging with Indian Railways to understand their operations was a significant learning curve.

Time was spent with the Railways to obtain a deeper understanding of their operations. And finally, the hands-on approach paid off. RailYatri came up with better products to help passengers travel smarter. started a pilot on the Sabarimala festival. It provided travellers with train-related information specific to the festival on the Train Enquiry website, but also gave this information feed to civic and law enforcement authorities, media channels, etc.

After this successful pilot, RailYatri launched’s new version. This incorporated a new search that allows users to search either by name or code of a train/station.Emphasis was laid not just on finding the current position of the train; but also in determining the best algorithm to predict the time the train is expected to reach an upcoming station.

“We have seen dependency grow on web and mobile versions grow by 200 per cent over the last 12 months. Our next step was to develop an application that could track live position of train on maps,” Rathi said. Hence, Rail Radar in October 2012.

Last winter, an interactive display of fog-impact on train movement on RailRadar in addition to information information on was launched.

“A specific micro-site for Kumbh also came up and in future we would look to launch specific events pages that impact the Rail traveller,” Rathi hopes. Perhaps Rail travel will be more fun then.

Railways gets on the info track

Guess which train generates the maximum enquiries over the Indian Railways’ information portals?

No, it’s not the Rajdhani or a very long distance train. It’s the Magadh Express, plying between Delhi and Patna.

So why does this particular train get so many queries?

When this question was posed to passengers over Facebook, the simple answer was “because it always runs late”!

Within a short time of going live, Railways site, and, operated by Stelling Technologies for the National Train Enquiry System (NTES), have managed to dig out some rich customer insights. As Mr Sunil Bajpai, Group General Manager, Centre for Railway Information System, (CRIS) points out, some of these insights could help the Railways build some value-added services on their portals that will be useful to passengers.

Around 9,000 trains run daily on the vast Indian Railways network. Minute by minute, kilometre by kilometre, running information on these as well as operations data from 6,000 railway stations filters into the CRIS office daily.

But till recently this huge volume of data was not getting transferred to the customer. Now, some of it is getting mined and being put “in real time” on as well as, and available to users online as well as over mobile phones. “We also plan to open the API (Application programming Interface) in such a way that third party service providers can source this information and provide it as well,” says Mr Bajpai.

Already, over and, passengers can find out the exact spot a train is at any given point. Going forward, useful information such as which platform it will chug into and perhaps even the exact spot on the platform a particular coach will halt at could be shared.

And all this without typing the train number (a major pain point for passengers trying to buy tickets on railway portals) but simply the name. “We found that most people disliked remembering numbers so have made searches easier by name,” says Mr Manish Rathi, CEO, Stelling Technologies, the tech company that powers According to Mr Bajpai, the number of daily visitors on the train enquiry site is already running into lakhs. “And this is only ten per cent of the total traffic that comes to the Railway Web sites.”

Mr Rathi says the information exchange could facilitate value-added services such as cab rentals for passengers. The data mining in real time could even help alert Railways when something untoward happens. As Mr Rathi points out, based on the information flow on they can reliably say the recent Hubli-Bangalore-Hampi Express accident in Andhra Pradesh happened between 3.00 a.m. and 3.05 a.m. “We get information feeds on a train every five kilometres it traverses, which is every five minutes, and the feed stopped at 3.00 a.m.,” he says.