Indian Railways is reportedly taking a leap down the digital track by developing more than 200 mobile phone applications aimed at tourists, travellers, and staff.

The giant train operator says it is helping to move the government’s Digital India Programme forward by preparing so many new mobile services.

However, the company has faced criticism from some quarters for complicating the issue and not launching a single app aimed at all users. Defenders of the new programme argue that by launching a wide range of applications it can sieve out those that work well and are popular while quietly dropping others, without confusing users with an overly complicated and cumbersome single app.

According to an Indian Railways spokesperson quoted in the Times of India: “People will be informed about the services to be provided by the railways with the help of these apps. This will enforce accountability.”

The new array of apps include traveller-friendly Rail MADAD which will assist passengers keen to file complaints about services and facilities. The new Menu on Rails app will enable passengers to select and order food from stations or on-train buffets.

In addition, customers will be able to monitor the progress of various infrastructure projects such as foot-bridges, station escalators and the construction of underpasses. Even the progress of Indian Railways Wi-Fi service at stations will be covered.

Apps will also be developed for tourist information and the National Rail Museum. The Times reports that Indian Railways will launch an app called ‘IR SUGAM’, which will contain information about freight business for customers.

The operator is no stranger to apps for staff. In February 2016, it launched handheld terminals for travelling ticket examiners (TTEs), as well as a paperless unreserved ticketing mobile application and a facility for e-booking disposable linen on trains. An app called ‘UTSONMOBILE’ was also launched in South Central Railway for unreserved ticketing.

Indian Railways currently offers confirmed accommodation in upper classes of all trains one year in advance, in an effort to boost foreign tourism. However, it is not clear if that too will be offered via an app.

Indian Railways will be one of the keynote speakers at this year’s WiFi on Trains Conference in London on 6-7 June, where the expanding market for on-board WiFi services, as well as the problems of intermittent mobile coverage, proposed trackside solutions, and other issues, will all be covered.

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