how to improve the railways ?

Indian Railways is the world’s fourth largest railway network, fourth only to countries like US, Russia and China. It has over 114,000 kms of tracks around the country. It is also the second largest in the world in terms of total employment, direct and indirect with an estimated employee count of over 13.6 lakhs. Managing such an institution is a big task in itself. And Indian Railways is managing such a huge entity admirably.

However, there is still a lot that can be done. Technology can be utilized in an effective manner which can ease the life of all the concerned entities (Indian Railways, Passengers, Corporate firms).
Here are some of my suggestions which can be implemented:
  1. Have a proper notification system: We have some existing mechanism, but it’s not centralized by any means. How hard is it to develop a system to send an automated message (SMS) to confirmed passengers about the current status of their trains? The flights have it!! The system is available; we just need to incorporate it in Indian Railways. As far as the cost is concerned, include it in the fare itself. People who want to be notified (like me) will have to pay extra (say 10-15 Rs.) per journey. Infact, Indian Railways can try to make it into a profitable venture. Who will benefit: Customer (people will be well informed to make alternate arrangements in case of any delay / cancellation), Messaging companies (Telecom service providers – they can even publish their ads along with the message or sell ad space to other companies), Indian Railways (customer satisfaction will increase, they can even make profits just by charging the customers for the notification). Let’s take an example: Assume 10 million people travel on long distance trains ever day (lowest case scenario), we can safely assume around 5% (5 Lacs) will avail this service per day – which is 150 lacs per month. The per-month costing will hardly go beyond Rs. 75 lac (including the one-time messaging server cost distributed over a period of time and monthly maintenance cost) which comes to less than Rs. 0.5 per person. Even if the Indian Railways charge Rs. 1 / person extra for this service, their profit per month will be around Rs. 75 lac – quite profitable I must say!!
  • Have a notice board in the station specifically for long distance trains: It should have the train number and current status. As the announcement is made, the notice board should also be updated. Languages can be English, Hindi and the local language (so that everyone is happy).
  • Punishing offenders throwing garbage on the tracks: There is an urgent need to stop people from throwing garbage onto the tracks and surrounding it – garbage including plastic bottles, remaining food, tea / coffee paper cups etc. Prompt action should be taken against those who commit such an act. Action should be taken in front of hundreds of people so that everyone is aware of the consequences. For most of the people, the world is their Oyster, but (unfortunately) for most of the Indians, our world is our dustbin!! We can pee, spit, throw plastics as and when we feel like. Just because we pay taxes doesn’t mean we can litter around at will!! And please, don’t say that the uneducated ones are doing it. I have even seen people getting off the high end cars in suits and peeing on the road!! So much for education!!
  • Information System inside the train: There should be an LED display in every compartment (atleast in the AC ones) stating the following information: Next Station name, time to reach next station, and probable delay (in minutes). The reason why this piece of information should be displayed is because there are a lot of rumors that circulate very rapidly and, like Chinese whispers, they take a totally different form and will always be misleading. Straight and simple!!

    I am sure one can come up with many more suggestions. But some of them mentioned above are critical and should be considered immediately. There is no harm in introducing technology if it can help improve the service levels. And if it is introduced efficiently, it can also turn out to be a profitable venture.

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