Technology drives Indian Railways into digital era

India's railways Web site sold 500,000 passenger tickets in a single day--a new record for the organization which manages one of the world's biggest rail operations.
Written by Mahesh Sharma, Correspondent

The Indian Railways sold a record 500,000 passenger tickets online in a single day, and it expects this number to climb higher on the back of new technology upgrades.

On March 1, Web site sales surpassed the previous high of 496,000 e-tickets sold on July 7, 2012, according to a report Monday in The Hindu Business Line, which quoted an official from the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC).
The Indian Railways transported over 8 billion people--or more than 20 million passengers daily--and sold over US$5.5 billion of tickets to passengers its financial year 2012, according to the latest budget documents.
Minister for Railways Pawan Kumar Bansal wants a greater share of sales to be transacted via the Web site, which had been criticized for its inability to handle large volumes. 

In a speech to parliament on February 26, when he revealed the Union Budget, Bansal outlined a number of technology initiatives to make it easier to ride trains. These include an online ticketing facility which operations will be extended to 23 hours a day, enabling e-tickets to be purchased via mobile phones, introducing an SMS alert service to notify commuters about the status and success of ticket reservations, and equipping more trains with the real-time information system (RTIS) to access information online.
Further, a new next-generation ticketing system would be in place by the end of 2013, which will be able to sell 7,200 tickets per minute--over three times more than the peak load today--and support 120,000 simultaneous users, or three times the present capacity, Bansal said.
"I plan to roll out a more efficient and people sensitive Railway Services system,'' the minister added. ''It will bring about a paradigm shift in internet rail ticketing by significantly improving end-user experience in respect of ease of use, response time, as well as capacity."
"The capability can easily scale up as demand increases in future," he said.
The minister also plans to integrate the ticketing system with the Aadhar database, the country's identity database which stores biometric information of hundreds of millions of Indians. Bansal has already spoken to Infosys founder Nandan Nilekani, who is chairman of the unique identification authority of India--the body tasked to manage the Aadhar project.
"[It] can be extensively and efficiently used by railways not only to render more user friendly services such as booking of tickets and validation of genuine passengers with GPS-enabled handheld gadgets in trains, it can also provide a better interface with its employees in regard to their salaries, pension, and allowances," the minister said. 

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