Indian Railways requires a Unified Passenger Information System


One early morning this year, sitting at the Kanpur Central station waiting for my train, I noticed that the expected arrival time on Railway’s website was significantly earlier than the one on the station’s display board. Having arrived at the station based on the information on the website, I now had considerable spare time on hand. So I ventured inside the station office to enquire and after a casual conversation with the station officials realized that the difference was due to the information being served by two different departments, who had their own independent methods of estimation of the arrival time of a train.

It turns out that the above scenario is not an isolated one. The current systems being managed by Railways are often fragmented offerings, coming as a result of computerization of similar stand-alone services. So it is possible- and experienced train travellers may have noticed this-for a train to be reported ‘cancelled’ at the local station, while it appears as running on the web portal.

Now obviously, this does not bode well for the commuter who is looking to travel on basis of this information. And again, experienced travellers have long been supplementing official data with ‘other’ sources wherever possible. However, while passengers may have found these inconsistencies acceptable over the years, now the clock is ticking. With the constraints of modern living, there is an increasing latent demand for reliable information based on which commuters can plan their travels.

There is growing evidence that consumers (travellers) have increasingly started correlating information gaps or weaknesses directly to the quality of services provided by the travel industry. Indian Railways provide some islands of high-quality information; however a general lack of horizontal integration adversely affects the provision of timely, reliable, and consistent passenger information. One of the focus of is to identify areas where information gaps (i.e. where relevant information data does not exist or even if does exist it is not available to the end-user) or information weaknesses (e.g. inconsistency, unreliability, lack of real-time, or inaccessibility) exist and evolve a suitable mechanism to fix or design alternative solutions to such issues.

And by the way, if you are still curious, my train at Kanpur Central finally arrived as per the timing of the local display board!

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