IT in Indian Railways MIS

Information Technology in Indian Railways

Name: Rahul U. Mondkar Roll No: 09810053 Abstract The Indian Railways has one of the busiest rail networks in the world, transporting 20 million passengers and 2 million tons of freight daily. It is one of the world's largest commercial or utility employers, with more than 1.6 million employees. The railways traverse the length and breadth of the country, covering 6,909 stations over a total route length of more than 63,327 kilometers. The Indian Railways as an institution forms the backbone of the nation. But considering that India inherited 53,996 kilometers of rail network, India has been slow on the expansion of this great institution. Going forward, the Indian Railways is a great opportunity for the nation to build an important pillar of Indian infrastructure. This paper examines the role Information Technology has played and can play in the modernization of Indian Railways.

1. Introduction: Indian Railways An efficient railway system is essential for the economic health of the nation. The railways weld the different parts of the country together, transporting its armed forces, providing postal services, and is therefore instrumental in the industrial development of India, carrying the raw materials like petroleum, coal, fertilizers, cement, steel and food grains. Railways are the main mode of communication for the citizens and goods of this vast country, which is 3,287,590 square kilometers in area with a population that is in excess of one billion. Indian Railways is an organization with a history of 150 years. At its peak the share of Railways in the freight segment was a high of 88 per cent, which has decreased to less than 33 per cent now. The market share of the Railways in the passenger traffic has also fallen sharply, from 72 per cent in 1950-51 to 16 per cent by 1998-99. Currently the market share of Railways in the passenger traffic is 72 percent in and freight traffic is 33 percent. The Railways has not been able to stand its ground and is losing out to the road sector, in the main segment and to air in the premium segment. Industrialization and further post industrialization there have been major changes in the freight movement pattern of bulk commodities like coal, cement, fertilizers, and steel, POL (petrol, oil & lubricants). The average lead of these commodities is reducing. Further there is a lateral shift of this reduced lead is to the road. Another result of the deregulation of the road and air segment is the improvement in the efficiencies of the road and air sector vis-à-vis the Railways and
Page 1

service organization. the level of IT use is minimal.IT in Indian Railways MIS further erosion of its market share. material procurement. The Indian Railways is one of the nation’s oldest institutions and has a high component of ‘public service obligation’ in its goal. fuel and energy efficiency. project management. In Page 2 . CONCERT deals with the customer interface of providing reserved accommodation to passengers of Indian Railways. The online passenger reservation system. A further evaluation of the above information systems would reveal that none of the information systems tackles the core organizational areas of concern for Indian Railways. the Indian Railways. which is a large. cost accounting practices and business planning systems are also gray areas. The IS also does not tackle areas that are of crucial importance to IR like employee productivity. The FOIS is an information system that manages the various operational aspects of freight movement across the organization. production units. like line capacity. maintenance of the assets of IR. The relationship between Organizations and Information Systems needs to be explored in the Indian context. Rudimentary applications like payroll. Indian Railways has implemented two enterprise wide information systems. The same holds true for ‘Information Technology. skills and training. However the development of IS in IR has not kept pace with the developments in the field of IT over time. The main threat facing Indian Railways is an outdated production led organizational structure. a larger. which need to be tackled. The management information systems. human resources development. a general observation that technology deployment does not keep pace with technology development. It has rendered large workforce redundant in the organizations . Although the external threats are important the greatest threats to the Railways are internal.A mechanism that has been effectively used by organizations to respond to the change in their environments worldwide has been utilization of Information Technology. inventory and accounts are the only ones that have been computerized. Improvements in technology have had another outcome albeit an indirect one. The Railways is one of the most efficient arms of a largely bureaucratic government. Specifically. government. The Information systems (IS) development in the Indian Railways started in the early 1960’s. It is. But for an organization the size of Indian Railways. more comprehensive and a strong case for implementation of Information Systems across the Indian Railways that include the above aspects. there is a scope for. In view of above. The Railways operate under a centralized command system with minimal responsibility to managers and imposes little commercial accountability. The two enterprises wide Information Systems do not even scratch the shell of the organism – Indian Railways. This was much ahead of its contemporaries. The online passenger reservation system – Country Wide Network for Computerized Enhanced Reservation and Ticketing (CONCERT) and the Freight Operation Information System – (FOIS). to track the entire freight rolling stock of the Indian Railways. the maintenance schedules of the assets. In addition the railways have a very weak system of keeping track of interdepartmental organizational events. that is geared.

Recommendations: Railways should draw up a well defined IT strategy plan clearly identifying the functional areas requiring standard applications and those areas where applications could be developed locally by zonal railways. 2. Both are dispersed across a big geographical area. Situation analysis is an important stage in information systems planning. Therefore there is a need to conserve the resources – monetary. Page 3 . Hence large resources are required to develop and implement information systems in such an organization. This requires a clear focus and a sustained effort without which the resources allocated for information systems development can easily be lost in organizational inertia because of thin spread of the resources over many information system development initiatives.2. The strategy would also help set out milestones and identify responsibility centres.IT in Indian Railways MIS addition it has the largest single unionized work force in the nation. leading to haphazard development of applications in zonal railways with overlapping functions. IT Issues in IR: 3. system specifications and users’ requirements from the application is a prerequisite for effective system development. It was observed that the IT strategy for development of standardised and uniform applications on the Indian Railways was ineffective. Deficiencies in system development: An understanding of the information requirements. Ineffective IT Strategy: An IT strategy is vital for every organisation to ensure that the use of IT is aligned with the mission and business strategies of the organisation and to establish inter se priorities for computerisation of various applications within the scheduled time frame. 3.1. Data Collection and Analysis Indian Railways has a large assets base and a large workforce. infrastructure and manpower of the organization allocated for information system development and sustenance and use them efficiently. In situation analysis the current environment of the organization can be analyzed using any of the following methods: . The strategy plan should be in line with the business plan of the Railways and should set out milestones.(i) Analyzing current business systems (ii) Analyzing current organizational systems and (iii) Analyzing current information systems 3. It was seen that users were not involved at the development stage and the applications developed were not comprehensive. The information systems development in Indian Railways needs to be studied in such a milieu.

Organizational and management controls were weak and proper segregation of duties was not ensured. the system was not deactivated automatically even after repeated unsuccessful attempts by unauthorised users. misuse. These had not been disabled. In the depots of SR.3. It was observed that: • The IT security was weak and both physical access and logical access controls were inadequate. enabling assistant programmers to access live data. which was further complicated by the absence of an audit trail. Where applications are allowed to be developed locally. On both DLW and SER. disaster recovery plans and environmental controls. where the server and console operator terminals were in the same cabin. thereby increasing the risk of hacking. • There was no system of documenting change requests and the changes carried out. there was no laid down password Page 4 . patient registration by the HIMS was carried out in the EDP room.1 Inadequate IT security policy and safeguards Information Systems security policy relates to safeguarding valuable assets/data against threats. • There was no business continuity plan. So was the case with Lucknow division of NER. 3. On SR and SER.3. it should be ensured that they are comprehensive and are implemented within a specified timeframe. impinging on physical access and security. Organisational and management controls provide for proper and clearly defined levels of responsibility by adequate separation of duties within the information processing environment. thereby increasing the risk of bypassing access control software and unauthorised access to the server. all the workstations having access to the server had both floppy disk and CD ROM drives. • Railways did not have an environment policy to dispose of e-waste and the obsolete or unusable computer hardware were disposed off like any other ordinary scrap. which was fraught with risk. 3. to change passwords periodically and to limit the number of invalid password attempts. The back-ups were neither tested regularly nor stored off-site. The IT security policy encompasses both physical and logical access issues. It was observed that: • A documented security policy had not been framed and circulated among the users of MMIS on SR and the Payroll and Provident Fund Accounting System of NER. • On SR. unauthorised disclosure or damage. On SER. loss. change management controls. thereby giving access to outsiders. • There was no system of maintaining emergency passwords for use in unforeseen situations and controls were not adequate to identify the users uniquely. Neither was any training provided to the users. thus. the server and the operator terminals were located in the same cabin. Deficient general controls: General controls regulate the environment to administer and implement the range of applications run on computers. Railways may formulate standard guidelines addressing the aspects that should be taken into consideration for systems development in line with the standard IT practices. General controls include the IT security policy.IT in Indian Railways MIS Recommendations: Railways should ensure that users are involved at the development stage and the applications developed address all operational requirements. posing grave environmental and health hazards. • For proper physical security. the server as well as the terminals used by the administrators should be physically separated from the other terminals.

DLW agreed to implement the web server security. approved by the appropriate levels. there was no documented procedure for effecting changes in the software. the procedures for change management need to form part of the initial planning itself and cannot be introduced in an ad hoc manner. Recommendations: The procedures for carrying out changes in system environment and steps to be taken in case of disruption of processing should be laid down clearly to ensure minimal effect on the business of the Railways in line with the importance of the applications. Page 5 .IT in Indian Railways MIS policy for gaining access to the application. Protocol analysers. the same user (Assistant Programmer) in RCF had access to the live application environment and performed various activities such as analysis of change requirement/request. data entry operators did not have passwords and were allowed unrestricted access. essential for network security were not being used. In RCF. stated that a committee for change management has been formed and its recommendations would be implemented after acceptance by the competent authority. with a clear password policy. testing. RCF in reply (November 2006) stated that the staffing pattern of IT Department comprised mainly of officers and assistant programmers and all the development and maintenance assignments were performed by the Assistant Programmers under proper supervision. Delays in effecting changes were also noticed. The change needs to be documented. The reply was not tenable since providing the Assistant Programmers with access to live environment and permission to make changes to live data was fraught with risk and was a significant control weakness. RCF. • In the absence of proper segregation of duties. it was not clear whether the changes made were appropriate and were duly authorised thereby exposing the systems to risk (SR. thoroughly tested and then stabilised. For instance. which was further complicated by the absence of an audit trail. changes in the application software were without user approvals. However. exposing the network to risk of access by unauthorised users. thus. user id management and segregation of duties. User identifications and passwords were being shared by multiple users to access all financial data and system software rendering the system vulnerable to unauthorized access. the new pension scheme introduced from 1 January 2004 was given effect to only from April 2005 in the software at RCF. 3. releasing of software including amendments to the live data. there was no clear segregation of duties and the roles of programmers and data entry operators was interchangeable. databases and operating system. in reply. • In DLW. On NER. development/coding work. In DLW and SER too. In the absence of documentation/evidence. Recommendations: Railways need to strengthen the security of the IT systems. data transmission in encrypt form.3.2 Lack of change management controls A good system needs to provide for changes in a well defined manner. DLW and RCF). particularly the access to the systems comprising both physical access as well as logical access. In a majority of cases. No record was maintained either of the change requests or of the changes carried out. no system was in vogue to protect the data during transmission from Wards to the EDP section as well as from EDP to the Kolkata office. though ISO 9001 certification on quality assurance for the IT department had been obtained. The application specific policy needs to be dovetailed with the organisational policy in each critical area.

The RailTracker system has various modules that perform certain functions. In addition. RailStats module This module produces various statistics and performance indicators used by railway management to manage and control the operations of the railway.IT in Indian Railways MIS 3. The following is a brief description of those modules: 1. loaded and fit for running. therefore. there was no business continuity plan and the back-ups were not tested regularly. 4. had not been carried out. it generates statistics and performance indicators for decision-making. Policy makers can also use these indicators to formulate both short. RailTracker is a computerized wagon. The systems were.and long-term plans for the transport sector. It is also essential that the disaster recovery tools should be constantly tested and updated. Traffic Operations module This is the main module in the RailTracker system. It thus increases the efficiency of freight operations. The RailTracker databases are updated via this module.3. Even such basic precautions such as timely refilling of fire extinguishers. A procedure needs to be prescribed for obtaining back up regularly as well as testing the stored data. It is used to record all the operations of rolling stock and consignments such as train movements. Page 6 . Case Study: Simplified customer-oriented information technology for railways in developing countries-the experience of Tanzania Railways Corporation Tanzania Railways Corporation implemented the Rail Tracker system in 1999. locomotive and train reporting system that tracks cargo and wagons throughout their movement. traffic operations. On any of the Railways reviewed. RailTracker also enables the railways to satisfy customers' requests for information about the whereabouts of their goods at any given time. and enables rolling stock and motive power to be maintained on the basis of up-to-date records of equipment use.3 Lack of business continuity and disaster recovery plans A disaster recovery plan is vital for an organisation to cope with the loss of operational capability due to unforeseen contingencies and to safeguard the IT assets from other disruptions. exposed to the risk of serious threat in the event of a disaster (SR and DLW). enabling railways to plan the movement of wagons much more effectively since they always know where the wagons are and whether they are empty. 2. operations in respect of consignments and those related to vehicles. the backup data was stored in the same room housing the Information Processing Facility (IPF). Recommendations: Railways need to draw a structured business continuity and disaster recovery plan with off-site back up sites for business continuity as well as data storage. The back-ups were also not stored off-site. On SR and SER. This improves short-term train planning since it is possible to know when empties will be available.

The vehicle can be attached. i. The read only module As the name implies. such that Page 7 . In order to collect and process information produced by railway activities. The reports can either be viewed on the screen or printed on the printer.e. or . a breakdown of those activities into elementary activities called operations is made. 6.On a foreign network. The information which the customer receives is filtered so that he can see only his own consignments. 4. When a vehicle is not available for traffic. .IT in Indian Railways MIS 3. a fit vehicle is in one of the following locations: . No system update can be done from this module. it must be moved to the sickline. Wagon turnaround module The wagon turnaround module computes wagon turnaround for available wagons during the reporting period. The combination of physical positions and traffic status imposes constraints on traffic operations. When a vehicle is available for traffic. Traffic operations are operations that change the physical position or traffic status of a vehicle. Customer module This module is used by railway customers to monitor the whereabouts of their consignments by connecting to the RailTracker system from their premises using a modem and telephone line. Siding operations include placing on the siding (DS) or withdrawing from a siding (RS). 8. Railway representative module The railway representative module is used to enable foreign railway representatives to trace vehicles pertaining to their railway or a consignment to/from their network while they are on a foreign network. 5.e. or . On a network. it is not part of any train. There is a specific operation code to identify each elementary operation in the RailTracker system. it becomes part of a train. 7. the read only module is used only to view information from the system. RailTracker Functions: Various activities are carried out in order to ensure transport on a railway network.The vehicle is detached. Fuel consumption module This module is used to monitor the fuel consumption of each locomotive in the railway system per driver and per issuing depot for a particular period. The module is now available on the Internet for on-line viewing from anywhere in the world.In the yard. two statuses are possible: . i. Reporting module The reporting module is used to produce predefined reports from the system.In the customer siding.

the combination of physical positions and traffic status imposes constraints on handling operations. the location of a vehicle or cargo as recorded in the system might not reflect its physical location in the network.A customer siding.A yard. There are four possible consignment statuses: . Current performance supplies data that is two hours behind real time. Benefits of RailTracker • • • There is no doubt that the major purpose of the RailTracker system is the generation of advance customer information. For example. . Achievements for both groups are explained below. . In such a situation. providing them with useful information that has enabled TRC to serve its customers better. Traffic operations and handling operations are authorized at milestones in the case of a breakdown or an accident. it is a great improvement that has provided significant benefits to TRC. a train can be terminated at a milestone. . further accuracy will be achieved.IT in Indian Railways MIS only certain traffic operations are allowed for each location. Improvement in telecommunication facilities is also required in order to reduce reporting delays and the costs of operating the system. a positioning is used so that the recorded position of a vehicle or cargo matches its actual position. however.Milestone: a milestone is not a station or a siding. and a wagon can be offloaded or loaded. Page 8 . Complemented by minor manual operations. Handling operations are operations that change the status or the position of a consignment with regard to: . Like traffic operations.A foreign network.Unloaded: the consignment item is not yet in a wagon. but any point on a railway main line.Loaded: the consignment item is in a wagon and the number is known: . While it has provided customers with current information on the location of their consignments. Once the Automatic Vehicle Identification System and electronic data interchange (EDI) system have been introduced. For TRC. the system has achieved its objective within TRC. .Positioning: for one reason or another. such that only certain handling operations are allowed for each location. There are some special cases for the functions covered by the RailTracker system: .Provided: the consignment item has been delivered to the customer. the system has been more beneficial to TRC management.Taken in charge: goods are accepted by the railway for transport. both qualitative and qualitative. This means that a consignment note has been created and goods are under the railways responsibility. .

• The major achievements of the information systems have been as follows: (a) Reduction of: (i) Wagon turnaround time from an average of 18 days at start in 1994 to 13 days. (vi) Transit times from 15 days to an average of 3 days. with the aim of satisfying customers and improving performance. (ii) Wagon detention at terminals from 8 days to an average of 4 days. (v) Locomotive detention at terminal and in transit yards. (b) Increase in: (i) Locomotive and wagon utilization from 280 kilometres per day in use to 380 kilometres for locomotives and from 73 to 120 kilometres per wagon day. Page 9 . • The Automatic reports have enabled senior and upper management to be well informed of operations.IT in Indian Railways MIS TRC management benefits • The successful installation and implementation of the RailTracker computer system has had significant benefits for TRC at both strategic and tactical management levels. (iii) Average daily interchange balance from 203 to 108 wagons. (iv) Average dwell time of foreign wagons from an average of 28 days to 12 days.

in addition to knowing the revenue earned daily. .Terminal operations. . The empty wagon distribution. (v) The availability of daily freight loading statistics serves as a good indication regarding the achievement of weekly targets. wagon interchange and demurrage charge modules need minor modification to allow for automatic operations since most of the basic information is currently available. . It has lifted TRC from the days of “ask tomorrow” to nearly perfect information on the location of cargo. . Page 10 . Some of these modules have been developed but need to be adapted to TRC system.Wagon interchange. (d) Commercial benefits: (i) In a bid to deliver services as agreed with some customers or as targeted by TRC. (iii) The ability to trace and control wagons has also meant that wagons can be supplied to customers more reliably. (iv) It is possible to detect within a maximum of 12 hours any wagons not paid for.IT in Indian Railways MIS (ii) Wagon productivity from an average of 20 loadings to 28 loadings per annum. Additional functionality and modules have been requested.Empty wagon distribution. Conclusions RailTracker has contributed to improving services for TRC customers and utilization of rolling stock.Automatic vehicle identification. Future Developments The flexibility of the RailTracker system has made it easier for the development of some of the above-mentioned modules which were otherwise not available in the original system. .Mechanical maintenance. The latter possibility enables proper control of payments and credits. monitoring of wagon movements after acceptance by TRC is done daily to ensure that cargo is delivered on schedule. Others still need to be developed and will be developed as and when funds are available.Demurrage charges. (ii) One of major impacts of the system is the ability to inform customers of the status and position of their cargo while it is on the TRC network. (c) The production of on-time performance statistics plays a greater role in the development of strategies for improvement of the business and organization in general. namely: . Calculations and applications are done manually.

http://www.indianrailways.IT in Indian Railways MIS References 1. www.in/DEPTTS/Infrastructure/VISION %202020_Eng_SUBMITTED%20TO%20PARLIAMENT. http://h71000.com/openvms/brochures/indiarr/indiarr.unctad.org Page 11 .pdf 2.gov.pdf 3.hp.www7.

Master your semester with Scribd & The New York Times

Special offer for students: Only $4.99/month.

Master your semester with Scribd & The New York Times

Cancel anytime.