Unsure about the credibility of train status information offered by portal offers? Ended up being served a wrong meal on train by a private online player?
Such issues might well be passé. The Indian Railways is rolling out an “integrated rail mobile App” that will offer a range of services—from ticket bookings to gift purchases to cab and hotel bookings or notifying security alerts. The virtual platform is likely to be operational as early as this year-end, officials said.
The railway app will provide multiple options to train passengers: from checking status on wait-listed tickets to exploring possibilities of alternative flight tickets to pre-ordering meals or watching videos from a “downloadable WiFi”.
Several private companies, including railyatri.com, make-my-trip.com and yatra.com, have been doing robust business by using the data on train travel. It’s into here the country’s largest transporter is stepping in. As a Railway official asked, “When it is possible for the Railways to take advantage of the business opportunity in the area, why should we allow the private players to flourish?”
The 1853-founded enterprise currently has about a dozen partner alliances for digital services. These include the Shriram General Insurance, Alibaba.com, Amazon.com and the Ginger Hotels. “But we are only skimming the surface, as of now,” points out an official. “The business potential is much bigger.”
State-owned Railways, which carries an average of 2.2 crore passengers a day, currently hosts an array of web services, including those offered by the Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation, National Train Enquiry System, Unreserved Ticketing System and the Complaint Management System.
“But the services are currently scattered across different sites,” says another Railway official. “Passenger complaints have also been that their sites get automatically re-directed, leading to confusion. Hence, the need for an integrated site.”
Ernst and Young, which is Indian Railways’ project consultant, has estimated annual earnings of Rs 500 crore for the transporter from the scheme. The UK-headquartered multinational professional services firm revealed this in a draft proposal it submitted Railway minister Suresh Prabhu last week.
The report points out that Indian Railways, in terms of passenger services offered globally, has much catching up to do. Britain’s Virgin Trains, for example, offers refund on delays, while train services such as Amtrak of the United States and the SNCF of France book cab and hotel for the travellers.
The Netherland station offers a “business lounge” or a private office to meet, email, print and conduct business, while the Seoul station has a “Virtual Shop” run by the “Home Plus” that displays over 500 of its most popular supermarket products.