Overall Best: Indian Railways 

PCQ Bureau
New Update

FOIS (Freight Operations Information System) is an

innovative solution from CRIS that solves the age old puzzle the Indian Railways

had about automating and streamlining the processes in an operation that had no

schedule. This project is the fruit of nearly two decades of toil and research

that started in the 1980s with the study of a mainframe based system that was

used then in the US and Canada for controlling their freight traffic. The very

first problem the engineers faced was that in the


, both freight and passenger traffic ran to time tables, while in


there were no time tables for freight trains! Thus, the very demands on what

the norms are for data integrity in the Indian environment were so drastically

different that trying to adapt the imported solution to work on our systems was

just plain impossible. And, freight traffic in



is a big earner for our Railways and revenues from it are consistently used to

subsidize passenger fares.



The operations and commercial side of the Railways needed computerization
due to the huge amount of data and reports generated


A 3-tier solution with two modules for rake management (operations) and
terminal management (commercial) for real time information



Center for Railway Information System (CRIS), under Ras Behari Das, Group
General Manager, FOIS and team



Alpha servers, Oracle, Tuxedo, BEA WebLogic. Application and database
servers in separate load balancing clusters
Ras Behari DasGroup General Manager, FOISCentre for Railway Information System(CRIS)Indian Railways

If on a particular day there is no demand to carry anything

from point A to point B, there will not be any freight trains starting that day

from point A. This also means that any trains that are running between points A

and B run without a pre-determined time table, unlike the passenger trains that

follow a fixed time table. In addition to this, there is what was known as

'monitoring hell'. Reports are created at different levels about various

operational factors-from (freight) train


arrivals and departures to what was in them and who they

belonged to and so forth. As the reports move upstream from the station to the

Railway Board (through the divisional and zonal offices), collating these

reports, verifying their accuracy as well as making sense out of the whole thing

becomes increasingly difficult. Even at the divisional levels, the amount of

paper work a worker has to process in a day is simply monstrous, given that the

Railways operates in shifts and each shift will

generate a report. Plus, consider that by the time the reports go up the chain

to the Railway Board, the data is already outdated and atleast a day old.

To top it all, there is a lot of resource sharing going on

between the passenger and the freight worlds, in the form of crew, locomotives,

running tracks, station platforms and so forth. For operational reasons, the

tasks of managing train running operations, repair sheds, yards, loading and

unloading docks and so forth have been split up into different units. But, the

planners at the top require all this information to be consolidated. This is not

possible in the manual system. There were 16 modules in the original solution

imported from the


. CRIS is now trying to recreate them in the order of criticality while making

sure they are designed for the Indian system.

Two of these 16 modules have been implemented under the

FOIS. One, the RMS (Rake Management System) is responsible for tracking and

managing freight wagons, freight-class locomotives and other

operations of the freight system. The other, TMS (Terminal Management System) is

the customer facing commercial part, that takes care of presenting the required

information to the customer at the freight terminal counter, demanding to know

where is train is, when it is due to arrive and how much he owes the railway.

Both modules are currently operational at around 500 locations, while the TMS is

yet to be deployed at 200 locations.

The FOIS system is accessible over the public Internet for remote clients at different stations. Railway employees access the application through the RailNet. A server performs the inward/outbound XML translations

Important customers (like the FCI) already get automatic

status reports of where their consignments are and when they will reach their

destinations by e-mail. There are already plans underfoot to extend this to

other customers.

Using FOIS, the Railways have been able to reduce the turn

around time for freight wagons from 8 days to about 5.5 days. And, there has

been a 10% jump in wagon-loading in the past three years without needing to add

more wagons. Because the information is directly captured digitally and is fed

into a relational database (Oracle), report can be generated used by operational

and policy planners with whatever pivots they require. Now, CRIS is planning a

DR site and a Data Warehousing system for this solution. The final vision is to

derive the 'base document' that comes out of the RMS plus the running status

of trains plus the crew and fuel used in the system and this base document shall

be indicative of how the Indian Railways is doing. This end solution is called

the Indian Railways Revenue Management System that will go live with the

commissioning of the last of the 16 modules.