New Delhi: The Indian Railways seems to be in love with mobile apps and vice-versa—a trend that seems to have picked up in the last four-five years.
As a result, in a short span, the Google Play app store has seen more than 250 mobile applications offering a range of railway services. Of these, close to 50 mobile applications have been developed by the national carrier and the rest by individuals and private companies.
More than 200 mobile apps have been launched by individuals and companies, including start-ups, by harvesting Railways’ data. These applications are available for both Android and iOS phones.
The development of such user solutions has reached a point where the Indian Railways has a mobile application for almost every passenger-specific service it provides—from booking tickets (IRCTC) to cleaning coaches (Saarthi) to ordering food (Menu on Rail) in trains to booking services such as parcels (Railways Parcel).
Besides, there are apps such as National Train Enquiry System (NTES), and those that concern in-house processes like train crew management and employees’ service record.
The latest app is ‘utsonmobile’ (UTS on Mobile), launched on 13 June to enable booking and cancellation of unreserved tickets, issue and renewal of seasonal and platform tickets and checking and loading of funds into R-wallet balance.
“Mobile apps are very handy and the preferred mode of transaction and information gathering for the present generation," a senior railway official said on condition of anonymity. “We started experimenting with mobile apps a few years back, coming up with service-specific apps and are now trying to integrate it under an umbrella app called SAARTHI." He said the Railways has a substantial number of mobile app users, but did not divulge specific numbers.
Most of the railway apps are in-house, developed by a unit called the Centre for Railway Information System. According to Indian Railways, on an average, 30,000 people download its mobile applications every day and it has more than 100,000 subscribers.
However, information technology (IT) experts believe the Railways’ obsession with mobile apps is cluttering the space. “People get confused with the host of applications on Google Play Store and other private mobile applications are getting a pie of the business, which should have been for the Railways’ entirely," said an IT expert on condition of anonymity.