Coupons with bar codes for train travel

Commuter-friendly coupon validation machines (CVMs) on suburban railway stations, will continue to be available for commuters. Railway authorities have managed to integrate the CVMs with its Unreserved Ticketing system (UTS) with the help of the bar-code system.

There are around 575 CVMs, of which, around 350 are on Central Railway, and 225 are on Western Railway.
The Railway Board had announced that CVMs will be phased out and replaced with Automatic Ticketing Vending Machines (ATVMs) from March next year.

It had also stated that it will allow CVMs to continue only if the machines were linked and integrated with the UTS system.

The Western Railway has finally developed a CVM that works well with the bar-code mechanism.

The WR, with help from CRIS, is now developing an ‘exchange protocol’, which may take up to 45 days, said Mahesh Kumar, WR general manager.

Kumar explained that there will be a bar-code on each coupon and a bar-code reader installed inside every machine.

Linked to a computer, the CVM will read bar code on coupon while validating coupon and will sent the details to computer. The computer will send the data to the UTS server.

“While issuing coupons at ticket windows, we will swap those. This way, details of sold coupons will be available with us,” he said.

Kumar added that 158 more CVMs will be installed on WR’s suburban stations.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/India-news/Mumbai/Coupons-with-bar-codes-for-train-travel/Article1-939047.aspx

Soon, ads on your Railway tickets

Cashing in on the computerised ticketing system, the Western Railway will start printing advertisements on suburban rail tickets to generate more revenue. “We earn Rs 2 crore every day through ticket sales, of which we earn Rs 1.6 crore through unreserved ticketing system (UTS). So, we plan to
earn more by printing advertisements behind tickets,” said a senior Western Railway (WR) official, on condition of anonymity.

Every day nearly 5.5 lakh tickets are sold through the 667 UTS windows on the western suburban line, which comprises 90% of the total ticket sales. Around 35,000 season tickets are sold every day on the same system.

“We will print advertisements behind daily and the season tickets sold through UTS. The plan will be later extended to automated ticket vending machines and coupon validating machines,” said S Chandrayan, chief PRO, WR.

Senior WR officials are examining the proposal and after it is finalised, they will call for tenders.

The selected private contractor will have to provide the UTS thermal paper with advertisements printed on it. The thermal paper is used at ticket counters across all railway stations in the city.

Not to be left behind, the Central Railway (CR) has allowed advertisements on their foot overbridges and platforms.

“We have placed advertisements on an experimental basis at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Dadar and Ghatkopar among several other stations,” said S Mudgerikar, chief PRO of Central Railway.

The CR expects to earn at least Rs 1 crore a month if all stations are covered. At these stations, the CR has allotted advertisement space on two staircases each with rates as low as Rs 15 per sqft.

Last month, the CR had allowed yellow stripes to be pasted along the edges of the platforms as an advertising gimmick for a television reality show.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/Soon-ads-on-your-Railway-tickets/Article1-613162.aspx

Railways exploring UTS on mobiles

At present UTS application is functional through face-to-face ticketing counters, outsourced ticketing terminals and automated ticket vending machines

New Delhi: Indian Railways and Centre for Railways Information System (CRIS) are exploring the possibility of implementing Unreserved Ticketing System (UTS) using mobile handsets.

“Subscribers of Mobile Phones is constantly increasing and to explore the possibility of providing ticketing solution through mobile phones we have called for expression of intrest (EoI) for UTS project to get a clear picture of the feasibility and the way forward,” CRIS Chief System Manager Monica Malhotra said.

She said at present CRIS cannot say much about the project but once EoI stage is over the way forward would be clear.

At present UTS application is functional through face-to-face ticketing counters, outsourced ticketing terminals and automated ticket vending machines.

These multiple interfaces have been developed primarily to extend ticketing convenience to the end-user and also to reduce the queue lengths on the railway stations.

But in reality despite the proliferation of ticketing counters the queuing problem has not been fully resolved.

This is primarily because of the fact that the passenger traveling on the unreserved segment generally reaches the station just prior to the departure time of the train. Peak hours therefore can be extremely crowded.

With mobile UTS application railways are looking at a win-win situation for the passenger and the Railways in terms of easier ticketing solutions that can lead to higher revenues.

As per the Expression of Interest (EoI) the desirable features of a mobile ticket solution will be that the user should be allowed to generate the Ticket by interfacing with the mobile phone from any physical location, for travel between a specified origin and destination point, The ticket so generated should be a smart image which should not explode into a full blown ticket till it is validated before the Journey is commenced.

EoI also stresses on features like ‘Self Destruction’, that is as soon as the validity period expires the Ticket Image should get deleted and the application so developed should make sure that it is compatible with even low-end phone so that maximum coverage is achieved.

http://www.igovernment.in/site/railways-exploring-uts-mobiles-37204

500 post offices to issue rail tickets soon

KOCHI: Railways will soon enter into a tie-up with the Department of Posts to issue railway tickets, both reservation and current, through 500 post offices in the State, Union Minister of State for Railways E. Ahamed has said.

He was addressing the media at the Ernakulam South railway station on Wednesday after inspecting the railway station.

Mr. Ahamed was on a four-day interactive trip, which will end in Thiruvananthapuram on Thursday. Shortage of ticket counters was one of the main complaints raised with the Minister during the trip.

Partnership

The Minister said public-private partnership models would be evolved for development of railway stations. Long-term partnership models, preferably for 30 or 35 years, were being considered.

Steps would also be taken to decentralise the power to release funds for development activities of railway stations. The authority to use funds for assignments like sanitation of railway stations would be given to the station managers concerned.

http://www.hindu.com/2009/08/13/stories/2009081354840500.htm

Renew rly season tickets at vending machines

By the end of this month, the suburban commuters would be able to renew their monthly/tri-monthly season tickets at the Automated Ticket Vending Machines (ATVMs) and escape long queues at the ticket counter. Rail officials said the process of issuing season tickets through ATVMs is almost over but refused to reveal the exact date of the commencement of the service.

“We are done with the testing and services should begin by the month-end,” said C P Sharma, divisional railway manager (Mumbai division), Western railway. The Central Railway is likely to start the service at the same time but officials refused to comment on the date.

ATVMs were introduced in the suburban section in October 2007 and are monitored by Centre for Railway Information System (CRIS). After being ignored by the people for a long time, the service has now started gaining popularity, with some 8000 ATVM cards being issued on a daily basis. The service aims at helping people avoid serpentine queues. “Using the ATVMs, one can renew the season ticket but the machine can not issue fresh season tickets. For the commuters’ ease, the ATVMs would have a keyboard in the screen through which commuters can make changes in the ticket,” said a rail official. These changes could be made in class, destination and date. In an option given on the screen, the commuter has to enter the UTS number, a unique one through which the railways maintain a database of any commuter.

http://www.indianexpress.com/news/Soon–renew-rly-season-tickets-at-vending-machines/461550/

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