Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu’s maiden budget offers a lot of hope to the IT and telecom sectors as the Ministry taps technology to enhance the efficiency of the rail sector.
Some of the measures he announced are 24X7 helpline number 138 and toll-free number 182 for security-related complaints.
Commenting on the budget, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted: “I am particularly delighted that for the 1st time, there is a concrete vision for technology upgradation & modernisation of the Railways.”
Mr. Prabhu said in his speech: “The Railways will develop a multi-lingual e-portal and will offer unreserved tickets on smartphones and Wi-Fi will be provided at B category stations.” About Rs. 5,000 crore has been earmarked for information technology, and research.
Another major technological advancement is the introduction of hand-held terminals to travelling ticket examiners (TTEs) for verification of passengers and downloading charts.
Travellers can order food and disposable bed rolls through the IRCTC website at the time of booking tickets.
The Railways are also planning to introduce on-board entertainment on select Shatabdi trains on licence fee basis.
Apart from these, they will add surveillance cameras on a pilot basis in selected mainline coaches and ladies’ compartments of suburban coaches without intruding into privacy.
The Ministry plans to use the power of IT to provide information on latest berth availability, station navigation system, bar coded/RFID tracking of parcels and freight wagons, and automated parcel warehouses among others.
It will introduce a centrally-managed Railway Display Network in over 2000 stations in the next two years. Mr. Prabhu also emphasised on the need for collaboration with institutes to develop technology and innovation for the improvement of Railways.
The Railways are planning to work with IIT-Kanpur to design a project based on radio signal for warnings at unmanned level crossings.
Other proposals are research centres in select universities for fundamental research and ‘Malaviya Chair’ for Railway Technology at IIT (BHU), Varanasi. Also, an innovation council called “Kayakalp” for business re-engineering and introducing a spirit of innovation in the Railways is planned. A technology portal to invite innovative solutions is another proposal.