Following the announcement made by the Indian Railways related to installing GPS devices in trains for providing real-time train tracking, MediaNama had filed an RTI with the Centre for Railway Information Systems (CRIS), the IT arm of Indian Railways, seeking more details about the project. In the response, CRIS informs us that the Real-time Train Information System project (RTIS) has been sanctioned across the Indian Railways at a cost of Rs 123.69 Crore. However, the roll-out is yet to begin.

Trial Phase, Tender Details

A trial is being conducted in a limited territory of Chennai Sub-urban region between Madras Beach (MSB) and Tambaram (TBM) and Madras Beach to Vellachery (VLCY) sections, where rakes move in a closed circuit. The trial was conducted at a cost of Rs 1,07,91,063. The tender for the trial was opened on 17th November 2011. The Chennai trial follows preliminary trials which were conducted earlier on 547/548, & 571/572 passenger trains, on the Secunderabad-Mehboobnagar route covering a distance of 113 Km. It’s been a while, though – the preliminary trials were conducted from April to July 2008.

The contract for conducting trial in Chennai Sub-urban region (MSB-TBM & MSB-VLCY sections) has been awarded to M/s Avantel Ltd. on single tender basis as it is the sole authorized license holder of DoT for utilization of S-Band MSS service.

The sections of Chennai Sub-urban region cover 364 train services running daily, and the system is operational since 18th Feb 2012, working satisfactorily (they claim).

Technology

ISRO had allocated 5 MSS frequencies for experimental purpose till 30th April 2012 without any cost for conducting trials in the trial sections. According to CRIS, the RTIS system shall utilize GPS technology for automatic capture of train running information (Position/Speed/ Direction). For communication of this information from the onboard loco device to a Central Server / Datacenter, ISRO’s S-Band Mobile Satellite Service (MSS) on INSAT-3C and GPRS shall be utilized. The Railways decided to conduct a trial to examine the reliability of the two communication mediums between the locomotive and the central server (i.e. S-Band MSS and GPRS), do a comparative analysis between the two and also ascertain overall workability of the system.

MSS is a one way satellite based messaging service available through INSAT, which provides a reporting channel via a satellite to a group of people who need to send short text messages or short data to a central station. The service offers one-way message reporting and is restricted to Indian territory.

An excerpt from the tender document about the specification and working of the system:

The Integrated Satellite Terminal (IST) shall primarily consist of GPS Receiver, MSS Transmitter, S-Band & L-Band Antennas, GSM/GPRS modem, Loco Control Unit(LCU). The IST shall operate on 110V DC derived from LOCO power supply. The GPS receiver shall receive GPS position and transmit the GPS data and messages in S-band to the MSS hub through MSS transponder of Indian satellites on INSAT-3C. In case of any failure in MSS services, GPRS shall be used as backup communication medium for transmission of messages to MSS Hub.

The IST shall be capable of storing the position information of all stations on these two sections. With inbuilt intelligence, IST will be able to determine and transmit Arrival /Departure/Run-through as and when train arrives/ departs or passes a station on Event-triggered basis. The MSS Earth station/Hub located at M/s Avantel’s Datacenter in Hyderabad shall receive signals in C-band from the Satellite transponders and after signal processing shall send the data to Information Processing Server (IPS)/Central Location Server. The MSS IPS is the central software that shall handle the messages / packets sent by a satellite terminal. The IPS shall analyze the packets and reconstruct the message to the original form by re-assembling, decompressing and decrypting the received data. After message reconstruction, the data shall be relayed to CAS server in CRIS, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi over PRS backbone network. CAS server shall forward the data to COA in the Chennai division. COA shall forward train running information to other applications such as PAM, NTES etc

National roll-out

For the roll-out of RTIS project all over Indian Railways, the timelines are yet to be finalized by the co-ordinating agency i.e. NCR- North Central Railway (NCR). The functional requirements, technical specifications, system architecture, project plan, timelines etc are yet to be finalized by the NCR. Also, at present, no financial arrangement exists between CRIS and ISRO. The railways informs that an appropriate agreement/MoU with ISRO enabling implementation of RTIS project over Indian Railways shall be done by Ministry of Railways at an appropriate time.

Download: the RTI response, including tender documents.