ICTs are playing an important role in this largest public sector of the country in the delivery of various services. IR is one of the first few government departments to introduce computers in the country. Computerisation on IR started in the late bos with the induction of IBM 1401s in the nine zonal railways, three production units and the Railway Board. Many applications were computerised, such as Passenger Revenue and Goods Accounting, Financial Management, and Inventory. Operating Statistics etc. While these systems proved to be beneficial to the Railways, they were soon found to be inadequate to cater to the increasing requirements. It was in the VII plan period from 1985-90 when these IBM 1401s were replaced with third and fourth generation computer systems. Computerisation in the production units and the zonal railways were strengthened, and computers were introduced in the divisions, workshops and stores.
Also, many new areas for computerisation such as Passenger Reservation System (PRS), Freight Operations Information System (TOIS) etc. were initiated. These developments are now beginning to show impacts on both the Railway system and its users. In 1986, the Ministry of Railways established a separate organisation to take up all computer activities on IR. This organisation came to be known as the Centre for Railway Information Systems (CRIS). In 1986, the Ministry of Railways established the Centre for Railway Information Systems (CRIS), New Delhi to be an umbrella for all computer activities on Indian Railways.
The Centre started functioning in July 1987. It is an autonomous organisation headed by a Managing Director. CRIS is mainly a project-oriented organisation engaged in the development of major computer systems on the Railways. It has acquired special knowledge and expertise in the field of informatics.
Passenger Reservation System :
IR has a very vast scope of operation. It is the world’s second-largest railway, annually carrying some 5.50 million passengers and 492 million tons of freight. Of the 15 million passengers who climb aboard one of 8,520 trains each day, about 550,000 have reserved accommodations. Their journeys can start in any part of India and end in any other part, with travel times as long as 48 hours and distances up to several thousand kilometres.
The challenge is to provide a reservation system that can support such a huge number regardless of whether it’s measured by kilometres, passenger numbers, routing complexity, or simply the sheer scale of the country.
National Train Enquiry System :
The National Train Enquiry System (NTES) was implemented as a pilot project in August 1998. NTES is a centralised information system, which provides up-to-date and accurate information to the passengers regarding:
• arrival/ departure of passenger trains including the expected time of arrival (ETA) of trains;
• platform berthing of passenger trains;
• journey planning;
• facilities available at stations; and
• Railway rules
Alpha Migration :
One of the key technical achievements of CRIS is a sophisticated reservation and ticketing application called Country Wide Network for Enhanced Reservation and Ticketing (CONCERT). The primary challenge for CRIS is to provide an efficient passenger service by ensuring maximum uptime for its reservation/ticketing and enquiry application.
The railway must prepare charts that map passengers with their seats and must post these charts outside each coach. CONCERT software enables the preparation of skeleton charts in advance for each train for the next three journey days.
Booking of Tickets on the Internet :
On 28th February 2000, all the common enquiries like trains between a given pair of stations, reservation availability, PNR status, fare, train schedule and station codes were made available to the common public through the Internet.
It has in a very short span of time become one of the most popular websites in India, with peak daily hits of the order of 1.7 million hits per day. The information is also available through SMS service on mobile phones, all over India.