The Centre for Railway Information Systems has centralised
the purchase and management of unreserved tickets with the use of simple and
innovative technology. by Soutiman Das Gupta
Dr Rajesh Narang
Chief Systems Manager
Traditionally, many passengers on Indian Railways mammoth nationwide
network preferred to purchase unreserved tickets at the counter on the day of
the journey. This caused problems for the passengers (long queues) and for the
railways in handling them.
Passengers waited in queues for tickets that would only be available one hour
before departure. The railways had to contend with system downtime, loss of
revenue, fraud and high maintenance costs.
The Centre for Railway Information Systems (CRIS) therefore developed a simple,
elegant and intelligent IT solution which was integrated, centrally-manageable
and allowed passengers a lot of flexibility. This project was unique among Indian
organisations and in its scale.
The unreserved ticketing system project got the organisation
better revenue and customer satisfaction. Dr Rajesh Narang, Chief Systems Manager,
CRIS, accepted the Intelligent Enterprise Award 2005 in the Infrastructure category
on behalf of his organisation for this project.
At The Railways
Indian Railways is the worlds second largest railways,
carrying 11 million passengers every day on 8,520 trains that depart from
Indian Railways is the worlds second largest railways,
carrying 11 million passengers every day on 8,520 trains that depart from 7,000
stations. The earlier ticketing systems were in the form of standalone machines
at each counter. If a ticket was issued from one counter, the passenger had
to go back to the same counter to cancel it.
The reference data resided only on the machines, so the day-end accounting involved
a manual process wherein the accounts team visited each machine in turn and
took records of the sales. Information such as ticket prices and routes had
to be entered into the firmware of each individual machine in case of tariff
revisions and addition of new routes.
It is a privilege and
honour to win an award from such a prestigious organisation as the Indian
Express Group. It will make the rest of the Indian media notice and recognise
the hard work that Indian organisations and their CIOs have been doing
all along, says Dr Rajesh Narang, Chief Systems Manager, CRIS.
This gave rise to a number of challenges like passenger
dissatisfaction and operational problems such as system downtime, loss of revenue,
fraud, cumbersome reporting processes and high maintenance costs, explains
Additionally, the Indian Railways anticipated a 60 percent rise in the growth
of passenger traffic. This prompted CRIS to look for a solution that was reliable,
flexible, and intelligent enough to handle the workload and simplify organisational
The Objectives Are Met
CRIS had a few objectives for the new system. It had to allow passengers to
purchase unreserved tickets at any booking station to any Indian Railway destination
up to 30 days in advance.
The infrastructure needed to improve the reliability and availability
of the ticket issuing system while reducing cost of ownership. The station servers
had to have the current fare and route information, states Dr Narang.
These initiatives would ultimately have to reduce station congestion,
prevent fraud, and increase revenue for the railways.
The Solution Is Planned
CRIS conceived the Unreserved Ticketing System (UTS) solution based on a three-tier
architecture built on open standards.
The fist tier was the Indian Railways central server. The second tier
consisted of the servers at the zone headquarters and stations. At the third
tier were the dumb terminals and thin clients at the ticket generation points
The project began in May 2002 with an investment of Rs 50 crore.
The solution uses mobile data server technology based on Sybases ASE 126.96.36.199
along with Sybase replication and HA subsystem, and other Sybase technologies.
It also uses IAnywhere Solutions Adaptive server anywhere mobile database.
The solution uses mobile data server technology based
on Sybases ASE 188.8.131.52 along with Sybase replication and HA subsystem,
and other Sybase technologies. It also uses IAnywhere Solutions
Adaptive server anywhere mobile database
The applications use a trimmed version of RH Linux on Sun
and IBM hardware. The thin clients use Disk on Chip (DOC) instead of a hard
disk. Low power consumption and centralised management are the advantages of
Special ticket printers are deployed with a special enclosure to keep the ticket
roll under lock and key. A log is maintained each time the printer is switched
on and off to keep an eye on the insertion of any unauthorised ticket rolls.
The project was completed in October 2003.
The benefits of the new systems were many, and were directly felt by around
1.50 crore customers and 12,000 employees of the organisation. The railways
now handles 2.5 million transactions every day through this system and earns
over Rs 40 crore each day.
It takes 1.5 seconds to issue an unreserved return ticket for the 8,520 trains
that run in a combination of 21 million national routes. Passengers can book
tickets and cancel them at any counter.
The infrastructure supports 7,000 users and has ensured security with the help
of a five-layered architecture. The database is over 100 GB and can be monitored
and checked for performance levels every day.
The country has been divided into nine zones and customers can purchases tickets
to and from any station within each zone. For instance, a person in Sarojini
Nagar, New Delhi, can purchase an unreserved ticket for a Mumbai-Delhi journey.
- Larsen & Toubro E&C Divisions
initiative to deploy an integrated project correspondence system.
The railways have allowed three-day advance booking of unreserved
tickets, but the system can be configured to handle reservations up to 30 days
Earlier, since the queues were long at the ticket counters, many passengers
were discouraged from waiting and travelled without purchasing a ticket. The
new system allows faster issue of tickets and has let us add 40 percent more
counters at no extra cost. This has reduced the loss of revenue by a large extent,
reveals Dr Narang.
Fare schemes and new routes can be updated from a central location, and accounting
can be done from a single managed interface. Systems downtime has reduced, and
it is not too expensive to maintain.
Due to this initiative, the railways have seen an increase in revenue by around
20 percent, or about Rs 365 crore. It has reduced expenses by 16 percent, which
amounts to around Rs 9.60 crore.
The Innovative Edge
A project of this size and scope is rarely seen in any Indian organisation.
The fact that it touched 1.5 crore customers and 12,000 employees of the second
largest railway in the world is unique.
The project uses a unique mix of technologies. The application
logic and database software has been developed in C++. Technologies such as
Adaptive Server Enterprise 12.5, replication server, and high availability subsystems
of Sybase, have been deployed on the zone and station Unix-based servers for
the first time in India. CRIS has also deployed IAnywhere Solutions Adaptive
server anywhere mobile database for better information management. The thin
clients have the full business logic for running a light RH Linux OS, ticketing
functions, and storing details of transactions in their 144 MB Flash ROM. It
updates the zone server every three minutes with transaction information for
cancellation and accounting. Thus, it increases the uptime of the system considerably.
Ticketing System (UTS) initiative taken by the Centre for Railway Information
Date started: May
Date completed: October
Project cost: Rs 50
Enable passengers to buy unreserved train tickets at any booking station
to any Indian Railway destination.
The project was the only one of its kind that involved the welfare of
1.50 crore passengers and 12,000 employees to install centralised client-server
architecture that reduces cost, fraud, and accounting hassles, and makes
life easier for passengers.
Next: Fault Tolerance
Looking forward, over the next three years the Indian Railways hopes to increase
revenue by 20 percent (around Rs 876 crore) and reduce expenses by 16 percent
(Rs 8.40 crore).
CRIS plans to implement fault tolerant systems using standby RISC-based clusters,
and introduce wireless and mobile ticketing devices at various locations. It
also plans to derive benefits by using bar codes and RFID-based tickets over