We’re surely looking into the future with this technology. Officials behind the world’s fourth largest railway network, the Indian railways are, according to a report by The Economic Times toying with the idea of fitting a GPS-based solution in trains, to help it provide real-time tracking – accessible on mobile devices and PCs. Although still under debate and discussion, the reports have confirmed that the Centre for Railway Information Systems (CRIS), which functions as the technology unit of the Indian Railways, along with the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) have developed a GPS-based solution. The technology is capable of providing the exact location of a train with an accuracy of 10 metres, and latency of 2 minutes, on a real-time basis.

Train tracking systems by 2013 (Image credit: Getty Images)

Train tracking systems by 2013! (Image credit: Getty Images)

Details with such precision, if true, would prove to be an indispensible tool for the Indian railway officials, who will then have a system at their disposal to help them prevent head-on collisions and save lives, in the process. With the GPS system in place, it’ll be easy to locate the other train, and if quite near then they can start braking. The report adds, “The braking distance of passenger trains is about 1 km, while for freight trains it is about 1.4 kms.” This will be especially helpful in preventing accidents that occur due to the lack of information on the location of the other train. The proposed system, which the officials plan to fit in a roughly 100 trains will cost the railways around Rs 70,000-1,00,000 per train, according to reports. Prevention of accidents, at least for now seems to be the highlighting factor in the implementation of this system. The report states that this year, so far, around 22 people lost their lives in a train accident, while last year roughly 122 people died in train accidents in India. It adds, “According to reports, in the last four years, around 15% of rail accidents took place in India.

Interestingly, passengers, too will be able to benefit from this system. Reportedly, the Centre for Railway Information Systems have integrated the GPS app with Google maps giving passengers precise details about their location. What the success of this system could do to crucial tasks, like train scheduling can be anybody’s guess. The report details that as opposed to the manual scheduling of trains wherein station masters inform the divisional headquarters about a train's departure from a particular station; GPS systems will help in the planning and scheduling of the trains, reducing the need for having to make multiple confirmations. Quoting V A Chopra MD CRIS, the report states,”The government's focus is to reduce the number of accidents and installation of real-time monitoring service on all trains by the end of 2013, which would contribute in improving the monitoring.

GPS systems aren't an entirely alien concept to Indian Railways, since even as you read this a pilot project's successful run is on between Chennai and Tambaram railway station, wherein about 364 suburban train services have been scheduled successfully with the GPS devices. The CRIS, reportedly plans to set aside around Rs 70 crore to the project. With a successful pilot project backing them, it'll only be a matter of time before we see the entire rail-route cutting across the country get GPS-equipped.

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