Clearly the Rail Budget has a strong focus on Capacity Building. And rightly addressed, the emphasis on technology stands out. Indian Railways is not one to be demand constrained ever, and it is possible to make the travel experience world class as well. The sheer number of passengers and millions of tonnes of goods which it ferries every day, unquestionably, bequeaths a right to its unique claim in history. Perceptibly, we are now a step closer to address the quality angle as well.
Being the lifeline of the nation, the railways span across and connect remote parts to the hinterland. In an expansionary mode as it is, the new projects undertaken are crunched for time. Effective project monitoring towards timely completion is essential, in addressing this particular capacity building challenge. We simply need many more routes and trains to handle the ever increasing load. That, disruptive technologies like drones are being planned for remote monitoring, clearly marks a progressive approach in solving age-old problems.
The nation will soon boast of the first rail hub which will come up in Chennai, as announced in the budget. Coming in the wake of Make in India week, it provides a great opportunity to leverage ER&D expertise to render a world-class infrastructure. As evidenced, the line between hardware and software is blurring, and technologies like embedded, IoT and the like are increasingly seeking newer avenues in creating a whole new experience. High end talent, cutting edge technology and enviable infrastructure are all on line, to be showcased.
Revenue loss because of corruption in the form of ticket-less travel, is a real menace and atrophies the sector unarguably. The announcement of introduction of bar-coded tickets on pilot basis to tackle this menace, is a positive move and should prove to be a necessary deterrent. A similar idea resonates and has shown positive results, in say the metro rails. It will be very interesting to observe how it pans out when much bigger volumes are in question. IRCTC is often touted as the world’s most transacted e-com site. Right now, the capacity is in the range of 2000 tickets which can be issued per minute. Imagine, the traffic when this number goes up exponentially to 7200 every minute! Enhanced technology will again be at the forefront to make this leap.
Railway stations, having Wi-fi? Not far-fetched at all! This year around alone, 100 stations will make the cut and by next one year, this number will touch a remarkable 400. An incredible move which will also lay emphasis and enhance the image of the Digital India vision. Once again, the government should be credited for rightly identifying that a significant part of all these proposed changes, will be led by startups. Clearly, they have been the harbingers of disruption and it is absolutely essential that we nurture an ecosystem which encourages them. The Rs. 50 crore announced for providing innovation grants to start-ups, will help promote innovation and usher in cutting-edge solutions and progressive thinking that will change the face of Indian Railways.
There’s a caveat of course. The efficacy of all policies (which are always well intentioned) lies in implementation and rallying around of resources. Speed. How quickly and effectively it will get done is what we need to watch out for.