Hi-tech Indian Railways

Some new generation vocabulary figured prominently in Railway minister’s latest rail budget, words like hand-held computers, smart cards, automatic vending machines, closed-circuit TVs, e-ticketing, short messaging services, call centers and internet.
A quick check made whether Railways really mean the talk, it is found that Railways have made real good plans for harnessing the power of technology to run the world’s largest Railway network. Railways suddenly look so enviably productive because of resorting to latest technologies be it Information Technology or signaling or locomotion (electro-mechanical) or ticketing and reservation and last but not the least safety. Only factor in success in all these is implementation of the right technology within the scheduled timeframe.

Coming to the basic plans, HP and IBM are providing the Railways with a growing number of servers, ABB offers train management systems, while many including Wipro deliver systems integration services.

Oracle, in association with the Center for Railway Information System (Cris), a central government body that manages the IT backbone of the Railways, has developed software for passenger booking and database maintenance, which will replace the existing flat-file system that is incapable of capturing passenger demographics, seasonal variations and booking patterns. Oracle’s Freight Operations Information System (FOIS) software has been helping railways to manage operations of 7,000 goods trains with over 2.5 lakh wagons across the country.

Bangalore (India) based McML Systems designs, develops and implements end-to-end signal infrastructure for the Railways. These electronic signal systems help the Railways to run more trains on the same track without collision or derailment. Effective signal infrastructure virtually multiplies the track by three or four times, thereby saving huge investment and space. McML systems founded by a team of technocrats, the company today provides signal infrastructure to 14 out of 16 zones of main line railways and metro rails in the country.

MRO-Tek, another Bangalore-based last mile access provider, has implemented a network for unreserved railway ticket vending. This automatic ticketing system constantly keeps the main ticketing terminal up to date. It also updates the key server on the ticket money collected from across the country. These are extremely critical networks that will have direct impact on business continuity, productivity and financial transparency.

Another Bangalore firm, which did not want to be named, is working on a CCTV (closed circuit TV) surveillance project, which will connect individual stations and platforms across the country to key tracking terminals.

Recently, the Railways outsourced a portion of its critical call center operation which provides train arrival and departure information to Chennai based Lattice Bridge Infotech. For Southern Railway alone, the call centre handles 20,000 customer calls a day.

HP India (sales, technology solutions group) will be working closely with the IT/BPO firm chosen by the Railways to set up the call centre by equipping them with the necessary infrastructure namely servers, storage and management services. They will also be working with the Railways to further upgrade their reservation systems and in freight management issues.

The Railways’ Research Designs and Standards Organization (RDSO), Lucknow, has a tie up with Texas-based UGS Corporation as provider of product lifecycle management (PLM) software and services. UGS offers a suite of integrated CAD, CAE and CAM applications and 3D software to research and design outfits, which helps the Railways to reduce cost of production and improve quality and profitability. Rail Coach Factory at Kapurthala and Diesel Locomotive Works at Varanasi are currently using these solutions.