Railways’ IT Advisory Council to outline use of IT for Railways to improve Efficiency

New Delhi: A panel set up by the Ministry of Railways is working on creating an IT Vision for the Indian Railways and identifying areas to leverage newer technologies such as Cloud, Analytics, Predictive Analysis and Geographic Information Systems and better Systems Integration to improve the efficiency of its vast and complex Railway network across the country.

Although Indian Railways has been effectively using information technology in areas such as passenger reservation and freight operations, the scope for further transformation is very large, said Som Mittal, former president of IT industry lobby NASSCOM, who is heading the 11-member information technology advisory council which was set up in May.

“The focus is to bring in more efficiency, build in more safety and integrate various operations of railways through technology,” he said. As part of its mandate, the council will “integrate and cover passenger services, freight services, asset management and train operations, safety and security as well as operations/enterprise management of the railways”, and give recommendations for strategy for implementation, capacity building and change management.

The final report of the council, likely to be submitted in the next five to six weeks after widespread consultations with industry and government bodies, will look at how existing and new technology platforms and applications can perform better by talking to each other.

“The council is looking at integrating existing applications, which were initially built for a specific need. Integrating applications will help make realtime information available. There is also a need to look at some apps where technologies are getting obsolete and may need to be rebuilt,” said Mittal.

A nearly 65,000 route km, the network generated revenue of nearly Rs 14 lakh million in 2013-14, of which about 26% came from passenger traffic and 67% from freight.

The focus, Mittal said, is on enabling a transition from management information systems to effective decision support systems, in addition to optimised use of assets and resources efficiency, moving from discrete at-a-time information to real-time information and a more integrated environment.

This real-time data could be obtained, for example, with GPS or GIS tech and using proximity sensors or RFID sensors to track locomotives and wagons. “Indian Railways uses information technology in various aspects of its working, including passenger services, freight services, asset management and back-office applications,” said Mohammad Jamshed, Additional Member (Computerisation and Information Systems), who is also part of the council. “A number of IT applications and systems are in progress and being planned,” he said.

Other members of the council include academics, IT experts, officials from the Ministry and the Centre for Railway Information Systems, which develops and manages IT applications of the railways, RailTel Corporation of India Ltd (a Telecom PSU arm of Indian Railways) and the Department of Electronics and IT.