Indian Railways to Get Real-Time Train Tracking With Google Maps

Indian Railways, which made safety a priority in its recent budget, will be launching a real-time tracking system for its trains. The tracking system isn’t just for the Railways personnel but the public can actually use it through Google Maps. The plan is to fit GPS devices on every train and give an interface overlaid onto Google Maps for general consumption. Yes. There’s an app for that. (It’s just a matter of time until someone develops one.)

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Each device will cost Rs. 70000 to Rs. 100,000 (US$ 1,380 to US$ 1,970) per train, which will provide an accuracy of 10 meters and a latency of 2 minutes. That’s near real-time. The technology is developed by the Centre for Railway Information System (CRIS) in collaboration with the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). ISRO’s INSAT-3C satellite will help triangulate the coordinates of the trains.

What the public will consume is an obvious mash-up of ISRO’s technology over Google Maps. This should not be confused with Google Maps actually providing the real-time system. This project will kick-off with an initial budget of Rs. 70 crores (US$ 13.7 million) . This means only few trains will be equipped with these systems.

A bit of a side-note here about the money. India has recently released its Railway Budget and the “then” Railway Minister has proposed a slight hike in passenger fares to fund the modernization of Railways. The minister was immediately sacked and the proposed hike is now in a limbo. This should probably give you an insight on why India doesn’t already have a real-time tracking system and also why only Rs. 70 crores are allocated to the project.

More than 10,000 trains traverse through various parts of India carrying 7 billion passengers a year. The cumulative length of the tracks is some 65,000 kilometers. Indian trains aren’t known for their punctuality. They often are crowded and run late.

With the new system, the general smartphone-equipped public can track the train’s movement instead of spending hours waiting for the train to come. For the non-smartphone users, I can see few services sending text messages with the exact location of their trains. In fact, a few ideas are already being worked upon in this direction.

Now that the passengers know where exactly the train is, would it be an incentive for the trains to not come on time at all?

Via ET