A new railway ticketing portal is being launched by the Indian Railways, which will be run by Centre for Railway Information Systems (CRIS), the IT arm of Indian Railways. In her third consecutive annual Railway Budget today, Railway Minister, Mamata Banerjee said that the service charge for booking of tickets through this portal would be cheaper at Rs 10 for AC classes and Rs 5 for others, which is half the half of the existing service charge levied by the IRCTC reservation portal, at Rs 20 for AC and Rs 10 for others. This begs the question: why does the Indian Government need two ticketing portal, both being run by government agencies? What’s not clear is whether IRCTC, arguably the largest e-commerce business in India, will continue to offer online train reservation.

Other proposals:

– Go India Smart Card: The minister announced the introduction of a pan-India, multi-purpose “Go-India” smart card on a pilot basis, a single window package for passengers to seamlessly pay for tickets for long distance, suburban, and metro journeys. The card can be used in booking counters, vending machines, and Internet, among others.

– In-Train Internet: The railways will offer Internet access on Howrah-Rajdhani Express as a pilot project. We wonder why the pilot is not being carried out on Mumbai Rajdhani, which runs on one of the busiest route, and carries business passengers. Remember that In-Train Internet and TV pilots have been announced quite frequently.

– Software R&D Center: The railway minister has also announced opening of a center of excellence in Software under CRIS at Darjeeling to encourage software development.

– Real Time Train Information System: The railways has also tied up with IIT Kanpur and RDSO to deploy a Real Time Train Information System, in addition to implement e-procurement and e-auctions for greater transparency, development of a web-based databank for land and asset management database and issuing paperless railway receipts and the extension of web based system of allotment of iron ore rakes to coal traffic.

Apart from this, a GPS based ‘Fog Safe’ device has been deployed by the railways.

What was missing

– No mention of Railtel or its plans for Internet access services using WiFi, or its plans to utilize its optic fibre network
– No mobile related initiatives

Download: The Indian Railway Budget