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Budget 2014: Indian Railways to go high-tech, focus on e-ticketing, wake up calls, Wi-Fi on the go, & more

Taking a cue from the tech-savvy Prime Minister of the country, the Railways Ministry has proposed some highly innovative tech-based solutions in the Railway Budget 2014-15 that was presented by the Minister of Railways D.V. Sadananda Gowda on Tuesday.

Some of the proposals include enhanced capacity of ticketing though mobile phone, mobile based wake up calls for passengers and Wi-Fi services in major stations.

Presenting the railway budget, Gowda said that the Indian Railways will improve the system capabilities in e-ticketing to support 7,200 tickets per minute as against 2,000 tickets per minute as of now, and allow 1.2 lakh simultaneous users at any point in time.

Millions of Indians regularly suffer because of the poor service of IRCTC, the official Indian Railways website. Majority of them fail to get a booking in the 'tatkal category' as the site crashes too often. It will be interesting to see if the proposal of the Railway Minister can improve the state of the current online ticket booking system.

In a style normally prevalent in hotels or other high end accommodations, a mobile-based wakeup call system for passengers has also been proposed by the ministry. The ministry has also suggested providing Wi-Fi services in A1 & A category stations and in select trains.

Gowda has also proposed revamping the entire railway reservation system into next generation e-ticketing even for platform tickets. In a move which is likely to come up as a huge relief to the commutes, the railway has proposed real-time tracking of trains. Indian Railways is also planning paperless offices in the next five years.

The railway minister has proposed to bring in more transparency in administration and execution of projects. "The status of ongoing projects will be available online, e-procurement will be made compulsory for procurement of higher amount and online registration of demands for wagons will be introduced within next two months," Gowda said while presenting the budget.

Online booking facility of railway retiring room will also be extended to all the stations during the course of the year.

The minister also said that the Indian Railways holds vast land assets which need to be digitised and Geographic Information System (GIS) mapped for better management and usage. He said resources mobilisation using land assets will be explored through private participation in setting up railway related business in railway lands as well as for commercial development.

In what may please many business travellers who prefer to work even while on the go, the minister has also proposed to provide workstations in select stations on a payment basis. "A pilot project will be launched by this year," said the minister.

Even the look of the station is likely to improve which otherwise sees scattered reservation confirmation charts everywhere. The ministry has proposed digital reservation charts at stations. In order to improve the safety of passengers, the minister has also proposed bringing technology for automatic losing of doors before start of train, both in main line and in sub-urban coaches.

To ensure that children of railway staff at remote locations get quality education, he has also proposed to provide education to these children through Railtel optical fibre cable (OFC) network.

In other initiatives, the minister has proposed the extension of dual display fare repeaters at all the ticket counters through PPP, extension of computerised parcel management system and extension of logistics support to various e-commerce companies by providing designated pick-up centres at identified stations.

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