#ThatWas2017: What has Indian Railways been up to this year?
The Indian Railways has always endeavored to improve and innovate its services to provide satisfactory experience and world-class amenities to millions of passengers every day.
This year, the state-run national railway system launched several new services, including new trains, initiatives, technologies, and facilities, to reduce travel time and costs and enhance the passenger experience.
Here's what Indian Railways has been up to in 2017!
New trains, initiatives launched by Indian-Railways in 2017
New trains launched and announced this year
In 2017, Indian Railways launched two new services -the semi-high-speed AC Tejas Express and the completely unreserved (general coaches) Antyodaya Express- and upgraded the three-tier AC Humsafar Express, too. It also announced the double-decker UDAY Express to increase passenger capacity on busy routes; it would be rolled out in 2018.
Six new trains -two each for Tejas, Antyodaya, and Humsafar services- were also introduced.
Improved catering services across its network
Indian Railways took several measures for improving catering services on and off the trains. It has developed and implemented a mechanism for monitoring the quality and ensuring the hygiene of catering services through regular inspection and also for efficiently addressing consumer complaints.
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Rajdhani Swarna coaches: Several new facilities for passengers
Indian Railways also unveiled the all-new Swarna coaches for the prestigious Rajdhani Express in November when the Sealdah-New Delhi Rajdhani Express got upgraded under the Railways Ministry's Operation Swarna.
The new railway cars have several new facilities like the auto janitor in toilets, CCTV cameras, LED lighting, fire-retardant curtains, comfortable berths, new interiors, fresh PVC flooring, high-quality hot/cold water mixture and shower faucets, etc.
Initiatives for optimum utilization of available accommodation
Indian Railways also undertook various initiatives for ensuring optimal utilization of available accommodation in trains. They include:
Finalizing first reservation chart at least four hours prior to a train's scheduled departure time
Allowing current ticket booking through the reserved ticket booking windows or the Internet until the second chart is prepared
Transferring vacant accommodation to next remote location after second reservation chart's preparation.
Services, facilities offered on IRCTC's website
Railways introduced several new services and facilities for passengers on IRCTC's website.
Waitlisted-passengers can now find accommodation on other trains at no extra charge under VIKALP scheme.
Passengers can cancel tickets booked at reserved-ticket-booking windows on IRCTC's website.
E-ticket holders can change boarding points at least 24 hours before the departure.
They can book wheel-chairs, retiring rooms, bedrolls, e-catering services, through IRCTC's website.
Wi-Fi, CCTV surveillance
Free Wi-Fi services offered at 28 railway stations
Under PM Narendra Modi's "Digital India" initiative, free Wi-Fi facilities were launched at 28 stations on the Konkan Railways zone of the Indian Railways.
State-run RailTel and tech giant Google have joined hands to provide free Wi-Fi services at as many as 400 railway stations across India by 2018.
Also, CCTV surveillance systems would be deployed at 900 stations by using Nirbhaya funds.
Chenab Bridge in J&K taller than the Eiffel Tower
This year, Indian Railways began building the world's highest rail bridge on River Chenab in Reasi district of Jammu & Kashmir.
Chenab Bridge, with a height of 359 meters (1,178 feet) would be taller even than France's Eiffel Tower.
Designed by German and Finnish consultants, the 1.3km-long Chenab Bridge would be ready by 2019. It is being built at the cost of Rs. 1,250cr.
High-speed bullet train between Mumbai, Ahmedabad
This year, Railways also announced the ambitious Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project with MoU between the state-run transporter and Japan.
In Sep'17, PM Narendra Modi and Japanese PM Shinzo Abe laid the foundation stone for the high-speed rail project in Ahmedabad.
With an average speed of 320kmph and a maximum speed of 350kmph, the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train would cover the 508km-long route in two hours.
Delivery of Tickets
Home delivery and pay-on-delivery service for train tickets
In May'17, Indian Railways, through IRCTC, also started delivering train tickets to passengers' doorstep, allowing them to make the payment through different modes, including cash.
This pay-on-delivery service allows customers to book rail tickets online, on IRCTC's platforms, and choose to pay at the time of delivery.
In August, IRCTC introduced the pay-on-delivery service for rail tickets under the tatkal quota, too.
Initiative for complete digitization of Indian Railways
Indian Railways also started an initiative for the digitization of the national railway system in 2017. It was developing a "common digital platform" by integrating all its departments' information to bring transparency to the system.
The digitization of the supply and procurement chains, including electronic payments, would also curb corruption.
Digitizing the whole system would also help the public transporter save Rs. 60,000cr.