The Indian Railways have come a long way since the chugging of the first train on Indian soil in April of 1853. India has always looked at the Railways as a vital infrastructure enabling it to deliver goods and services for the growing economy. However, meeting the requirements of fast growing economy is a challenge.
The main issue is creation of the needed logistics and transport capacity in an affordable and achievable manner. The fact is that the traditional way of building additional infrastructure is too slow, too cumbersome and likely to fall short of the growing requirements and expectations. The challenge is to find a solution with adequate level of investments that shall leverage and optimize both the available and future resources.
We need a smarter way to connect people with jobs and goods with market. Digital Technology offers the solution. By going digital we can unlock far more than currently utilized capacity of the available infrastructure. We can run more trains where they are most needed. Going digital shall help the Indian Railways build and run better, provide more trains and better services with greater reliability.
Indian Railways aims to deliver services to meet the demands of the citizens of Digital India via the Digital Railway Platform: IR-OneICT or Indian Railways One Information and Communication Technology Platform. IR-OneICT is a vision to create a data-driven Indian Railways.
IR-OneICT is a strategic initiative for meeting the Business Objectives of: Improved Customer Satisfaction; Safe, Effective and Efficient Operations and Improved Revenues.
This shall be done by the following the principles of:
Use of best in class technology for data analytics, simulation software, network optimization and decision support systems shall enable and ensure real time availability and usage of information leading to agile and efficient working. Thus, managers can spend more time on execution.
IR-OneICT aims for service delivery on an easily accessible Digital Platform for an enhanced customer experience. End to End Journey Management, Real-time consignment tracking, Door to Door value added deliveries, Co-branded services such as onboard dining and entertainment would be available to customers on easy to use mobile apps.
IR-OneICT shall also enable the Indian Railways to improve utilization of assets, maximize load-factors, discover new business opportunities and plan smart investments. The impact of these interventions is described briefly in the following paragraphs.
Data-driven network optimization on other major railway systems such as Britain’s Network Rail and Canadian National has unlocked 30 to 40% of hitherto unutilized capacity. Similar results could be expected on Indian Railways.
Real time asset management systems would enable managers to not only plan efficient operations & maintenance but also optimize asset acquisition for enhanced capacity. Financial data would assist the managers to dynamically plan and optimize cash flows.
Every year Indian Railway uses about 3 million litres of diesel and 16 billion units of electricity. Smart sensors and networks coupled with real-time analytics can predict and optimize energy consumption for substantial savings and significantly reduce our carbon footprint.
An informed workforce is an empowered workforce. Employee management dashboards would help managers stay in sync with their teams anywhere, anytime. IR-OneICT would enable a 24 by 7 workforce.
Digital enablement of Indian Railway hospitals would assist in optimal use of resources through appointment scheduling and other linked activities. Tele-medicine services shall help connect experts and patients located in different parts of the country with ease.
Seamless delivery of services shall be powered by a robust ICT infrastructure supported by Server Clouds, Managed Networks and optimized Systems Architecture ensuring Confidentiality, Integrity and Availability.
IR-OneICT shall engender a paradigm shift in Indian Railways to create a Digital Railways for Digital India. This initiative shall truly revolutionize Indian Railways.
(Suresh Prabhu is Union Cabinet Minister for Railways, Government of India.)
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