The Indian Railways has pulled the plug on Rail Radar and Train Enquiry, and launched its own Train Enquiry system. An announcement on the new train enquiry website informs visitors that, starting September 6th 2013, they should use http://enquiry.indianrail.gov.in/ntes/ instead of Rail Radar and TrainEnquiry.com. Rail Yatri, which had launched the Rail Radar and Train Enquiry that have now apparently been shelved have declined to comment: we contacted them after receiving a note from a user unable to access Rail Radar. Note that CRIS (the Central Reservation Information Systems) had launched Rail Radar at our #NAMA conference last year.
An announcement in the press (read this) calls the new Train Enquiry, as “a new, enhanced interface”, which frankly, is a ridiculous assertion if you compare the ugly new interface and user experience with what existed just a week ago. To put things into context, we’ve moved from:
It’s not just the interface, but the experience is also much worse: it’s ridiculous that the CRIS version of Train Enquiry asked me to fill out a CAPTCHA form before I could access the page.
This switch from Rail Yatri to CRIS is also a surprising move, especially given that, just last month Rail Yatri recently launched Rail Wisdon, an initiative for collecting (crowdsourcing) information relevant for train travelers – information such as which exit to leave the station from, which train stations the doors usually are locked at, interesting food and tourist places near train stations, among other things. Rail Wisdom is still available on the RailYatri website.
Why should CRIS have a monopoly on railways information, and decide who uses this information and how? Why can’t they just release an API, so that, not just Rail Yatri, but anyone who wants to pull their train timings data can use it as they deem fit? Think of online and mobile travel guides that can integrate live train information. If someone can do a better job of it than CRIS, then why not? By monopolising information, CRIS is limiting consumer benefit.
For the Indian Railways, which is a public sector undertaking, the focus should be on making it easier for users to get the information they need, and for this, they need to be less territorial about it. What’s better for consumers is what matters, and the switch that we have seen here is a significant step backward.