Indian Railways has the fourth-largest rail grid globally, after only US, Russia, and China. The railway sector of India has 123,542 km of total tracks over a 67,415 km route and approximately 7,300 stations. In the fiscal year ending March 2020, Indian railways took 8.1 billion passengers and hauled 1.23 billion tonnes of freight in FY2020-21. Indian Railways is the single largest employer in India and the eighth-most extensive globally, employing near to 1.3 million people.
Developing an innovative environment and user-friendly mobility system is among the main priorities worldwide transportation expansion. Rail transport is acknowledged as an integral component of this process. Meanwhile, a revolutionary advancement in the business environment stimulated by the ICT technologies demands the existing business prototypes and strategies adopted by rail operators to be brought up to date. A comprehensive understanding of digital transformation is essential in developing rail transport in the contemporary economy.
Digitalisation, as a continuous cycle of convergence of the physical and virtual worlds, is tied towards cyber-physical systems and is accountable for the creation and transformation in numerous sectors of the economy. The leading technologies and solutions that have accelerated digital transformation in the railway sector are the internet of things, cloud computing, extensive data analytics, and mechanisation and robotics.
The transformation to the current necessities of the digital economy is visibly characterised by the emergence of the notion of industry 4.0 as well as lately, Railway 4.0 and digital railway. The fundamental areas determined by the Indian railways for digital transformation include a partnership with technology and logistics partners for technological advancements, passenger-friendly applications, application integration for a cooperative Indian railways platform, freight consumer convenience, data analytics, cashless commerce, dashboards and alerts, mobile applications.
The Indian Railways has adopted digitalization in all aspects of its functions: passenger data systems, passenger car factory mechanization, predictive maintenance, train signals, ground control systems, procurement, and unreserved ticketing methods.
Real-Time Train Information System (RTIS) associated with ISRO is being enforced by the Indian railways for computerised chart preparation and passenger train data. 2700 electric locomotives have been supplied with 3800 diesel locomotives provided with RAMLOT; thereby, automated management charting for 6500 locomotives is being carried out. In a year, a balance of 6000 electric locomotives is to be supplied with RTIS equipment.
Through Unreserved Ticketing System (UTS) terminals, automated unreserved tickets are made available to passengers at rest stations. This is done through the nearest node station. By enforcing the Modern Train Control system with Long Term Evolution (LTE) based Mobile Train Radio Communication (MTRC) system, Indian Railways is revamping its signal system. The railway implemented Industry 4.0 in modern passenger car factories to increase productivity. Indian railways have also employed drone-mounted cameras and 3D scanning of river beds in 2019 to examine bridges and are designing to utilise drones for rail maintenance in the future.
Indian railways have achieved the end-to-end digitisation of procurement procedures. All the processes from the processing of requests, generation on-demand, publication of tenders, tender finalisation, preparation, and the issue of letter of approval, agreements, and changes, an assessment of material by RITES, specialised evaluation of proposals, accountability of supplies, online receipt, and processing of dealer’s accounts, issue of material to consignees are digital. All this is beneficial to purchasing.
The Indian Railways has continuously improved its methods and methods by deploying advanced technologies and mechanisms that comply with global benchmarks and regulations. Its long-term goal is to improve functional implementation and consumer satisfaction.
This article is coauthored by Bhakti Jain and Karishma Sharma.