Is someone you know travelling on a train? Thanks to the latest initiative by the Centre for Railway Information Systems (CRIS), you can see where your loved ones are right away.
So far, while you could pull up a train’s details by searching for it on the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) website, the information was just plain text. On 10 October, in collaboration with RAILYATRI.in, CRIS launched RailRadar (Railradar.trainenquiry.com)—a website where users can see the movement of all trains in the country on a satellite map.
The map is incredibly detailed—you can zoom out to see all the trains, or keep zooming in until you can see each train as it crosses Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg in New Delhi, for instance.
The service is completely free, but ad-supported. Sunil Bajpai, general manager, CRIS, says: “Over the last decade, train network and traffic in India have grown tremendously. We are also very sure that this trend will continue over the next few decades. As railway travellers too today we also want to know more—beyond just ‘an’ estimated time of arrival (ETA) of ‘a’ train at ‘a’ station. As the volume and complexity of information increases, we believe that new methods of information dissemination (associated with trains and its running information) will be required sooner than later.”
Operating under the ministry of railways, CRIS has been involved in unreserved ticketing, passenger reservation and software-aided train scheduling since its inception in 1986. RailRadar helps provide a new way for users to get train information, and to present it in the simplest manner possible. “We believe that value of information/directions can greatly be enhanced when presented graphically rather than just plain text,” says Bajpai.
The map is extremely simple—you can use the plus and minus buttons on the left to zoom in and out, while a search button lets you look up a particular train or station. The trains are represented by arrows: blue means on time, while red means late. While the service works well, it does help to highlight something we’ve all suspected—almost half the trains are almost always red.
The website mentions one caveat: “Please be aware that the location, and status of trains shown on the map are typically five and more minutes delayed from the real time. Please note that RailRadar, using all different types of tracking mechanisms and the software that supports it, while highly reliable, is also complex.”
RailRadar also doesn’t cover all the 10,000 trains that the Indian Railways operates—it presently accounts for around 6,500 trains, but more will be added over time. If you load the site, a panel at the top of the screen shows the number of trains running at that point. This number is updated through the day, showing you how many trains are active at any point.
By clicking on a train, you can see the station a train last crossed, the estimated time of arrival for the next stop, or you could mark out all the stops that are on the route. If you search for a particular station, then you can either go to the station and watch all the activity, or see a list of trains which use the station, and use that to find a particular train. In case you or someone you know uses a particular train regularly, you can also mark that train as a favourite, making it easier to find the next time you want to look it up.
When you find a train, you will see a terrain map showing its location, so you’ll see if it’s crossing hills or a river. It’s not a 3D map, but it gives you a good idea of what people on the train are also looking at, or were, 5 minutes ago.
Since the service updates every 5 minutes, the information is a little behind reality, but it is accurate enough to be useful in understanding where and why delays are taking place, and will be an easier alternative to calling up the forever busy rail enquiry numbers.
The only thing missing is a mobile app with live routes. That’s not on the cards just yet.