As the technological innovations and advancements come full circle in the 21st century, our way of living has seen a massive change. Our preferred means of transport has also seen a substitution, with cheaper airfares and excellent roads, trains are slowly slipping from its position as the go-to transport method. The Indian Railways has a sub-division called the Research Design and Standards Organization (RDSO). This subsidy has taken several steps to ensure that the railways develop its ageing infrastructure and improve on the quality of service. The government with the help of data from the RDSO has decided to invest around 9 trillion rupees, to see a significant overhaul in the IR by 2020. Some of the projects encompassing this major investment are:
- Infrastructure: Modernization projects include the introduction of High-Speed Rail, with the first of its kind going into operation from 2022 in the Mumbai-Ahmedabad region; redevelopment of more than 400 stations; doubling tracks to reduce congestion and increase safety; refurbishing of coaches more than 12 years old, to enhance passenger comfort and fire safety standards; rainwater harvesting and reforesting on railway land and along tracks. GPS enabled systems are now part of almost every train that runs. Digitization under the Digital India program is under full effect, to fully digitize the railways making it more efficient and reduce costs.
- Electrification and power: There are existing plans to electrify all existing routes and nearly 50% of all courses have been electrified as of November 2016. Off-the-grid solar powered trains are planned along with the introduction of 1gigawatt of solar power and 130 megawatts of wind power between 2017 and 2022. India is the first country to introduce a full solar-powered train with 50 coaches. LED lighting and rooftop solar harvesting is planned to make railways more eco-friendly. Modernized bio-toilets and new factories that build more environment-friendly locomotives are under construction. A 200 billion rupee partnership with French rail-giant Alstom was announced to introduce 800 electric locomotives from 2018-2028.
- Safety: Projects to remove over 1200 level crossings, building an average of 1060 over and underpasses each year are all in progress. An automated fire alarm system on Rajdhani Express trains was introduced in 2013; this feature is now available on air-conditioned coaches of all trains. A new GPS enabled Fog-pilot assistance System for railways, which is a signalling device, was installed in 4 zones, namely: Northern, North-Central, North-Eastern, and North-Western. It replaced an old and outdated method of using firecrackers on train tracks to alert drivers.
With now the entire booking platform online, the convenience of getting tickets has also substantially increased. IRCTC train running status, PNR status, departure and arrival timings and a host of other features are available on both the Railways and private services websites. Technological advancement is the way to go for the Indian Railways. The government now realizes that it needs to put in more investment and research for the development of its most used public sector service. IR employs the most number of people in the whole world. With a constant influx of data and work, the number of employees are about to increase a whole lot more.