Railways to brainstorm with IT experts this month to improve Services

NEW DELHI: The Indian Railways will convene the first-ever roundtable with information technology experts from India and abroad in March this year as part of its ambitious “big data” convergence plan called “One-ICT” to enhance and modernise services and operations.

Running 18,000 trains and carrying 23 million passengers each day across a network spreading 64,500 kilometres, the railways generates a huge amount of data every day but lacks an open source platform for collecting and analysing the information.

“The One-ICT program will enable the Indian Railways to meet global benchmarks. Global bids inviting participation from transportation and IT companies will be floated this year,” an official said.

The Centre for Railway Information Systems (CRIS) – a public sector undertaking of the state-owned transporter – operates a number of IT platforms including the Freight Operating Information System and Integrated Coach Management System.

“But these have mostly functioned as silos and have not added enough value to the business of running trains,” said an official.

Experiments in the use of digital technologies are transforming rail operations in most of the developed world.

“Besides bringing about vast improvements in operational efficiency, a one-stop-solution IT platform can unlock the business potentials of the Indian Railways by optimising freight and passenger operations,” Mangal Dev of the Hitachi Rail System Company said in a recent presentation before the Railway Board.

Dev is the director of Hitachi India and head of Hitachi Rail System Company, India and South Asia Region.

Associated with two projects on the complete life-cycle train management in the United Kingdom, the Hitachi systems capture data from thousands of sensors and signals on the functioning of various systems including voltage, temperature and brake pressures, and AC systems. These are analysed into actionable intelligence, Dev told.

“Self-aware” trains – or the “super-brain” concept for locomotive management–are among the new rail technologies being experimented. Last year, the German DB and the General Electric of the United States launched a digital pilot project to assess the performance management system and monitor the condition of its locomotives.

The GE is also collaborating with the US Amsted Rail on the “Car Integrity Monitor”, which provides real-time notifications on the condition of freight wagon components.