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Indian railways launch new app to make commute safer for women

The SOS application will alert the relevant zonal railway control room, depending on the region the train is moving through.

mumbai Updated: Mar 31, 2019 01:11 IST
Aroosa Ahmed
Aroosa Ahmed
Hindustan Times
mumbai,railways,women's safety
Mumbai’s Central and Western Railway had previously introduced panic buttons in women’s compartments of local trains.(Pixabay)

In a move to improve safety of women passengers on board the Indian Railways, the Centre for Railway Information Systems (CRIS), an Indian Railways-owned organisation, is planning to introduce an SOS application for smartphones. Using this app, passengers are expected to press a button during emergency situations which will send a distress signal to alert railway authorities. CRIS has been developing the application in-house and will soon start trials all over India.

The application is a part of ongoing efforts to improve passenger safety and emergency responses. Once pressed, the SOS application will alert the relevant zonal railway control room, depending on the region the train is moving through. The location of the passenger will be accessed by the control room through the global positioning system (GPS) of the user’s smartphone. The passenger will also be able to enter train details.

The zonal control room will then alert the loco pilot, assistant loco pilot, motorman, guard, railway personnel present in the train. The nearest Railway Protection Force (RPF) and Government Railway Police (GRP) personnel will also be alerted. Further, the control room will get in touch with the passenger through the application to offer verbal assistance.

“The GPS location of the passenger during emergency will help us to assist passengers immediately. Coordination of the GPS is crucial and we have been working on that. Trials will soon begin across the country,” said a senior railway board official requesting anonymity. CRIS is also working on developing a mechanism to distinguish fake distress messages from genuine cases, said the railway official.

Passenger associations have welcomed the initiative. “Women’s safety in local and outstation trains is a matter of concern. The application is a good move,” said Subhash Gupta, president, Rail Yatri Parishad.

The introduction of an SOS application for passengers is part of an integrated project to increase safety on Indian railways. The organisation is also working on fitting SOS devices in the motorman coaches of the train, which will help in cases of derailments and accidents.

Central and Western Railway have introduced panic buttons in women’s compartments of local trains, but they have not proved effective. Passengers have pressed the button as pranks and not during emergencies. Other initiatives to improve women’s safety on the railways include GRP personnel being posted in women’s compartments after 11am and a helpline (182) that lets commuters register complaints with the RPF. However, passenger associations have complained that the helpline does not work in certain suburban railway sections.

First Published: Mar 31, 2019 01:09 IST