Indian Railways Pulls The Plug On Rail Radar, Train Enquiry

The Indian Railways has pulled the plug on Rail Radar and Train Enquiry, and launched its own Train Enquiry system. An announcement on the new train enquiry website informs visitors that, starting September 6th 2013, they should use instead of Rail Radar and Rail Yatri, which had launched the Rail Radar and Train Enquiry that have now apparently been shelved have declined to comment: we contacted them after receiving a note from a user unable to access Rail Radar. Note that CRIS (the Central Reservation Information Systems) had launched Rail Radar at our #NAMA conference last year.

An announcement in the press (read this) calls the new Train Enquiry, as “a new, enhanced interface”, which frankly, is a ridiculous assertion if you compare the ugly new interface and user experience with what existed just a week ago.

It’s not just the interface, but the experience is also much worse: it’s ridiculous that the CRIS version of Train Enquiry asked me to fill out a CAPTCHA form before I could access the page.

This switch from Rail Yatri to CRIS is also a surprising move, especially given that, just last month Rail Yatri recently launched Rail Wisdon, an initiative for collecting (crowdsourcing) information relevant for train travelers – information such as which exit to leave the station from, which train stations the doors usually are locked at, interesting food and tourist places near train stations, among other things. Rail Wisdom is still available on the RailYatri website.

Our Take

Why should CRIS have a monopoly on railways information, and decide who uses this information and how? Why can’t they just release an API, so that, not just Rail Yatri, but anyone who wants to pull their train timings data can use it as they deem fit? Think of online and mobile travel guides that can integrate live train information. If someone can do a better job of it than CRIS, then why not? By monopolising information, CRIS is limiting consumer benefit.

For the Indian Railways, which is a public sector undertaking, the focus should be on making it easier for users to get the information they need, and for this, they need to be less territorial about it. What’s better for consumers is what matters, and the switch that we have seen here is a significant step backward.

LCD screens at railway station soon

The Ambala division is all set to install LCD screens at the railway station to provide passengers easy access to all train-related information. Around 15 to 20 medium-sized screens will be installed at the platforms while a large screen would be placed at the entrance. The contract for the project, to come up on the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model, has already been awarded to a Delhi-based advertising company.

“The advertiser will have to bear the cost of the screens as well as pay an annual licence fee to the Railways,” said Ambala Divisional Railway Manager H K Jaggi.

The display of train schedules on the screens would be interspersed by social awareness messages by the railways and advertisements by private organisations. The display time would be split between the Railways and the advertising company.

Stating that all formalities have been completed for the project, the DRM said: “The screens will be installed within a week or two.” At present, the railway station has only an electronic display board at the entrance.

Get PNR status of rail ticket via SMS

LUCKNOW: Hung up on the line to enquire about your PNR status? Do not crib. 139 has an SMS-way out. The call centre service of railways that came into existence about two years back has become a little more friendlier.

Sources in Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) confirmed that sms service on 139 has become functional. Currently, it can be used only for enquiry of PNR status of passenger’s ticket.

Write — PNR (give space)(type PNR number) — and SMS to 139. The message will be delivered within no time. Since it is not a toll free service you might have to pay Rs 3 per SMS. “The service has just been started,” said sources.

The plan to transfer array of services provided by IRCTC on mobile phones through wide network of service providers had been in the offing since long. This time around, sms can be sent from any of the service providers except two. And most probably, it is BSNL and Reliance that are not providing the facility to its users.

The all Indian enquiry 139 already provides information about PNR status, arrival/departure of trains, seat availability and fare/accommodation when passengers call on it. For further queries, passenger can press a star and talk to the customer care executive as well.

Though BSNL, MTNL, Vodafone and Airtel users can connect to this number for information, sources added that sms service might not be available on all of them. Just as calling up on 139 is not free of cost service similarly sms service is also not a toll-free one.

Passengers can use it to confirm the PNR status after the information has been fed into the reservation chart which is usually an hour before the train departure. Since the service is a new one it might make passengers face some initial hiccups like time taken in providing PNR information.

On the other hand, Lucknowites will have to wait for booking a taxi through 139. Lucknow station was supposed to be one of the several stations where IRCTC was said to extend this service soon. However, regional office does not have any information on that.

“I am not aware of any such thing planned for Lucknow,” said K M Tripathi, chief regional manager, IRCTC, Lucknow. On the sms service, he agreed there was a plan to start the service soon.

Video conference-based Unmanned enquiry booths at New Delhi

new delhi : In an effort to provide better passenger facilities in the run-up to the Commonwealth Games, Northern Railway has set up two automatic enquiry booths at the New Delhi and Old Delhi stations. The trial run, which began about ten days ago, has received tremendous response claimed Northern Railway officials.

“The new video conference-based enquiry system has been introduced at New Delhi and Old Delhi stations on a trial basis,” Divisional Railway Manager (Delhi division) B D Garg told Times City. According to Garg, the new system includes an LCD screen, a mike, a hotline, a monitoring machine, a camera and few other equipment and is operated by a person sitting at a distance. “We plan to establish a central call centre which will answer to these queries. In all probability, it is likely to come up at the DRM office,” said Garg.

A passenger has to simply speak out his question in the mike, which will be heard by the operator sitting in the control room. “The operator, whose image would be appearing on LCD screen at the counter, will resolve the query,” Garg said. He added the new system will help contain long queues at the counters.

Garg, who was transferred to Delhi Division recently, had earlier introduced such digital enquiry systems at several railway stations in the Danapur division. “If it appeals to people, we will introduce more such systems here in a phased manner,” he said.