16 May 2016 07:13:56 IST

Railways gets on the infotech track

Lines up ERP project to integrate all operations

It is being touted as the mother of all IT projects. The Indian Railways has embarked on a project to integrate its operations using enterprise resource planning (ERP) in order to synergise them and save on costs.

Announcing the project at an event for micro, small and medium enterprises in the IT sector, , Railway Minister, Suresh Prabhu said: “The whole idea is to integrate everything, to bring together the possibility of operational convergence through ERP. In the next few years, Indian Railways will transform, save costs, bring in efficiency and increase transparency. I was talking to the Managing Director of Tata Consultancy Services and he felt this could be the largest IT programme anywhere in the world. That’s what we are trying to work on.”.

An IT vision for the Railways has already been formulated by a panel led by former Nasscom Chairman Som Mittal. Prabhu said use of digital technology was not a choice but a compulsion as it was imperative to use technology to fine-tune operations by integrating it to the Railways’ mainstream activities.

Two apps

The Railways is at an advanced stage of unveiling two mobile applications — one to integrate all ticketing related activities, and the other to integrate all non-ticketing related functions, including managing accounts, HR, train operations, freight yards, wagon booking, freight booking, locomotives, coaches, tendering for vendors, sale of scrap, and awarding works contracts.

It has also signed a memorandum of understanding with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) for development applications in the field of Remote Sensing and a Geographic Information System.

The MoU aims to develop applications such as an advance warning system at Unmanned Railway Crossings for road users, mapping of the Railways’ assets through Geospatial technology, developing a paperless unreserved ticketing solution based on geo-fencing of the station area, as well as a real-time Train Information System using Communication Satellite Services.

The Railways has also introduced a facility to cancel tickets bought over the counter using mobile phones. A mobile-based real-time system for handling passenger complaints along with social media integration (Facebook and Twitter) is also being fine tuned. Apps for women in distress are being developed as well.

Analytics-based decisions

A special cross functional team is analysing the over 100 Terabytes (1 Terabyte= 1,000 GB) of data that the Railways generates in a year.

“We are working on a start-up programme and have allocated ₹50 crore for it in the budget. Any new innovation which comes in, we will mentor it, anchor it and take it to the marketplace as a proprietary technology of the person who develops it,” said Prabhu.