A Phenomenon Called Indian Railways



Imagine the long queues that you had to experience at any Indian
Railways ticket booking counters at any given point of time. Reminisce
those days when you had to hop from one counter to another counter to
book long distance travelling tickets in case you wanted to purchase
both your onward as well as return journey tickets. And in the process
you wasted half of your day, or even a full day!

Things might nor have changed drastically in the last five years but
have improved for sure. We still have to wait in long queues to
purchase journey tickets from the counters. But they move faster and
one need not to hop counters in case he needs to purchase multiple
location tickets. Also we have the facility to book tickets online,
sitting at the comfort of our homes or offices. And in case you are not
net savvy, you can approach a nearby travel agent and purchase your
reservation ticket online by paying a meagre service charge.

All these and more! Truly Indian Railways have come a long way as it
rewrote history. IR’s journey from that of being a loss
making organization to a profit making organization over the past
decade has been phenomenal. While initiatives like wagon replacements,
changes of tracks from metre to broad gauge and India’s
soaring GDP has been vital contributors towards this transformation,
technology has played the most crucial role that revolutionized Indian
Railways and journey by train forever.

Indian Railways is the second largest and busiest rail network in the
world after Russia, transporting over 18 million passengers and more
than 2 million tonnes of freight daily. Introduced in 1853, Indian
Railways were nationalized in 1951. It has a widespread network across
the length and breadth of the country operating both long distance and
suburban railway systems. IR is divided into 16 zones that are further
sub divided into 67 divisions managed by zonal and divisional
headquarters. Under these divisions there are over 7000 stations that
requires to be manned by the railway persons.

Understandably, managing such a huge network across a country as
diversified as India, is a Herculean task. Considering the increasing
demand to systematize the entire operation and cater to the growing
number of passenger and freight trains, it was important to introduce
some robust framework that would provide IR the required bandwidth to
improve its overall operation, service and customer experience and last
but not least, profitability.

The
CRIS Connection

Railways operate in a dynamic and constantly changing environment. This
requires a continuous update of information about current status and
location of its assets. Being into the service domain, the only way to
improve its operation and thrive is to constantly collect and collate
accurate data on their current utilization followed by intelligent
analysis of the available information. One wrong step, and it can
create havoc jeopardizing both railway traffic as well as passenger
safety.  

Realizing the important role that information technology can play in
its railways operation, IR had embarked on a well-defined
computerization program during the early ‘70s. After the
early introduction of regular computer applications such as Pay rolls,
Inventory control and Operating statistics, IR went ahead with
deploying computers for productivity improvement through building up
operational databases. Within the period between mid 70’s to early 80’s
IR developed a blue print for further computerization within the
organization.

As part of its IT initiatives, the Ministry of Railways established
Centre for Railway Information Service or CRIS as an umbrella for all
computer activities on Indian Railways. Formed in 1986 as a society
that can function autonomously under the Ministry, CRIS was modelled as
the deployment arm of IR to design, develop, implement and manage its
various IT initiatives.

Over the years CRIS’ role has expanded from that of
application development, implementation and maintenance, and now it
does a lot of procurements as well since it is the nodal point of IT
project deployment for entire Railways. There are presently over 20
projects that are being handled by CRIS, some of which have already
been deployed and some are under various stages of development or
implementation. The initial mandate for formation of CRIS was to
conceptualize, design and develop and implement Freight Operation
Information System (FOIS), and later to deliver other subsequent
projects on IT.

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