Union railways minister Suresh Prabhu presented the NDA government’s second railways budget. The minister announced a slew of digital initiatives for modernizing the Indian railways. Some of the noteworthy highlights from the budget:
– Wifi at railway stations: Minister Prabhu said that there will be 100 railways stations which will be WiFi enabled this year and there will be 400 more stations in the next year. The railways had announced the partnership with Google last September. Google had said that the WiFi will be provided for free at the start, the with long-term goal of making it self-sustainable. The Indian railways and Google deployed the service earlier in January at Mumbai Central railway station.
– IRCTC: The railways ministry said that the IRCTC would begin to manage catering services in a phased manner. Local cuisine of choice will be made available to passengers by the IRCTC. Other food tie-ups with food companies and IRCTC include TravelKhana, Hello Curry, KFC and Dominos Pizza.
In November 2015, MediaNama reported that IRCTC posted an income of Rs 1,141 crore ($171 million), including the sales of ticket service charge, Rail Neer bottled water, in house catering services and license fees from outsourced catering vendors.
– Ticketing: Introduced 1,780 Automatic Ticket Vending Machines and 225 cash-coin & smart card operated ticket vending machines. The railways also enhanced capacity of e-ticketing system from 2,000 tickets per minute to 7,200 tickets per minute and to support 1,20,000 concurrent users as against only 40,000 earlier.
– Drones and startup grants: The railways intends to use the latest drone and Geo Spatial based satellite technology for remotely reviewing the physical progress across major projects. “In the next financial year, this would be operationalised for monitoring the progress on Dedicated Freight Corridor,” Prabhu said.
The minister also set aside Rs 50 crore “for providing innovation grants to employees, startups and growth oriented small businesses to support internal and external innovation.”
– GPS based displays and screens: The railways will install information boards in trains which will show the on board services and also GPS based digital displays inside coaches to provide real time information regarding upcoming halts.
The minister also said that the railways is creating a centralized network of 20,000 screens across 2,000 stations called Rail Display Network which will enable real time flow of information to passengers and be used for advertising.
– Cleanliness: The railways will introduce ‘Clean my Coach’ service on Pan-India basis, where a passenger can request cleaning of his/her coach/toilets on demand through SMS.
Download: Full text of the speech