Improving Passenger Experience on moving Wheels

The Government of India has focused on investing in railways to upgrade its infrastructure networks fit for operating both freight and passenger trains at higher speeds.

0
795
inside-wagon-train-interior-passenger-train-with-empty-blue-fabric-seats-scaled
inside-wagon-train-interior-passenger-train-with-empty-blue-fabric-seats-scaled
InnoMetro 2024 Delegate Registration

Abstract

Indian Railway has embarked on a transformational journey and is harnessing innovation to usher in a new era of sustainable mobility in India – one that offers safer, reliable, faster, punctual, and comfortable travel for the passengers, making every train journey a satisfying experience, while being environment-friendly with a lowest possible carbon footprint. Indian Railway is a key driver of India’s economic growth and development. The Government of India has focused on investing in railways to upgrade its infrastructure networks fit for operating both freight and passenger trains at higher speeds which shall play a major role in integrating and bringing different parts of our vast country closer and thus enhancing economic activities in meeting the $1 Trillion economy target.

The amalgamation of advanced technologies and empowering measures by the Government in all the areas of the railway from infrastructure to rolling stock, customer services and modernized railway stations, digitization of railway operations and predictive asset management, implementation of the landmark Dedicated Freight Corridors (DFCs) and ambitious bullet train network are all propelling the nation towards sustainable mobility, with passenger experience and economy growth at the core.

Introduction

Indian Railways is the third largest railway network in the world by size and is continuously undergoing changes. One area of importance is to improve the network capacity and utilization, faster services, and safe running of trains.

The current scenario has changed the transport paradigm with the focus shifting from infrastructure to service and from ready-made to tailored solutions. Underling the importance of evolving with technology, the Railway Minister recently said that technology is the only input that can significantly impact the future of the Railways. Further, with metro rails resuming operations in a graded manner, digital technologies help in demand management, social distancing, and providing real-time information for authorities and passengers.

For the Railways, the rapid digitalization is marked by the fourth industrial revolution — Railway 4.0. It enhances railway infrastructure, services, systems, signaling, and rolling stock while improving the operational efficiency of the assets. They are being re-imagined, designed, delivered, and operated using technology that brings stakeholders into collaborative partnerships, thus changing the face of the Railways.

Designing coaches, signaling and traffic management, freight management, train services, workforce, and customer management are some of the key areas of digitalization in the rail sector.

By embracing digitalization in all spheres of its operations — such as asset management, signaling, manufacturing, and passenger information system — the Railways is on track to improving its revenues and passenger experience

Rolling Stock

DP0Tn2FVAAAzkXb
Improving Passenger Experience on moving Wheels 5

Most of the rail coaches run through traditional manufacturing processes that lead to high inventory costs with parts being produced and stored before being assembled. With digitalization, costly traditional manufacturing is being rapidly optimized and enhanced by platform-based 3D technologies.

With the rolling stock manufacturers using virtual 3D platforms and technology to incorporate subsystems, components, and assembly information, the coach designs are accurately modeled, simulated, analyzed, and improved in the virtual world, to correct the faults and inefficiencies in order to avoid costly mistakes. Additive manufacturing is evolving as a game changer in the Railways like in other sectors. The Railways recently started using a ‘Make in India’ 3D printer to design and print coach components in-house as per requirement.

The Railway Minister also recently announced the plan to redesign passenger coaches as per international standards to make them safer, comfortable, and faster. The 3D design platforms and passenger experience solutions are also revolutionizing the rail sector by incorporating integrated electronics, reconfiguring seating and standing areas, or adding styling through the cabin that reflects the local aesthetic or identity.

Signalling System

The technological advancements are enhancing the railway infrastructure capacity by converting to electrified routes with advanced signaling. This modernization of the signaling system includes the implementation of the European Train Control System (ETCS) which adheres if the speed limit of the train is compatible with the permitted speed allowed by signaling, thus improving safety and punctuality. With the plans to modernize 8,000 railway stations, the government is also leveraging the Building Information Modelling (BIM) process for designing and installing railway-signaling systems. 3D technologies help to visualize infrastructure life-cycle and solve problems by eliminating various issues because of the mistakes caused by poor communication of data.

The infrastructure 3D model technology also recognizes the oncoming train and its speed records data image and helps with 3D visualization of railway track with all assets, train driver simulations, and digital track capturing. Additionally, the new policy framework by the government has proposed to use of a public-private partnership (PPP) to unleash faster development signaling systems in the country.

Workforce Management

The staff in the Indian rail network are using various innovative technological solutions to improve efficiency, ranging from customer service to maintenance and repair work. Having a workforce management platform helps the staff to plan and schedule processes in a planner software for control over the entire workforce process such as capacity planning, daily task scheduling, real-time rescheduling, routes, employee availability, and competing time slots.

The software platforms allow the operators to see all scenarios and decision consequences in real-time and then take informed action. It also enables the train planners with a dynamic decision support tool to see all scenarios and decision consequences in real-time, to help make customer-centric decisions and improve service reliability.

Train Service Efficiency

Different trains running on a network have different priorities, speed restrictions, and stoppages. Considering these constraints, track speeds, and requirements, train schedules are being made to increase network utilization. This, when performed with network optimization, increases the number of trains that can run on the same network, thereby increasing the revenues for the Railways.

Fleet Planning

Having the right fleet of wagons, and coaches at the right place and at the right time can increase the revenue for the Railways. Reducing empty kilometers by proper planning can reduce the time and cost spent. This requires an intelligent planning platform that can incorporate all the constraints and produce the best plans based on KPIs.

Disruption handling is an essential part of an intelligent planning platform to handle unexpected disruptive events such as the non-availability of loading cranes, and late arrival of inter-modal transport units. Delaying the entire train will mean a hold-up for the other load orders and result in many unhappy customers. An intelligent planning system aids as a decision support system, one that provides an overview of all possible solutions and their influence on KPIs.

A huge part of maximizing utilization comes from reducing maintenance time. Maintenance and cleaning are critical and, in most cases, can’t be delayed. For instance, wagons that have been used to transport diesel must be thoroughly cleaned before they can be used to transport petrol. In order to clean the wagons efficiently, planners need an intelligent system that provides full visibility of which terminals, employees, and materials are available at the requested time slots. With such visibility, they will be able to manage last-minute cleaning tasks while responding to urgent order bookings that come in unexpectedly.

Customer-Centricity

The Indian rail network is continuously enhancing the passenger experience through digital technologies. Modern features such as facial recognition, emergency talk-back system, WiFi infotainment system, automatic plug-door, and step control have completely changed the passenger travel experience.

One of the steps undertaken to modernize the Railways is the use of solutions that enhance passenger experience and offer the ability to propose custom-tailored coaches depending on train routes and passenger tiering. These solutions allow a detailed exploration of the cabin, including a 360-degree view of the rail coach, and high-end visualization provides the customers with a visual experience while meeting their requirements.

The Railway Ministry recently launched a transparent reservation system wherein passengers can check their real-time reservation status. Keeping in mind the current scenario, the contactless ticket checking system by the Railways is helping passengers to check for the availability of berths to passengers.

Over the last couple of years, technology and innovation have been changing the face of the Railways as it has embraced digitalization in all spheres of its operations such as asset management, train signaling, manufacturing, passenger information system, and coach factory automation. With the Railways’ digital transformation, the industry will accelerate new railway intelligence thus enabling enhanced industry-wide knowledge and business model innovation.

MaaS enabled Train Travel

The passenger railway industry has been under increasing pressure to transform due to changing business dynamics and customer expectations. There is a need for enhancing passenger experience and ensuring profitability for railway operators worldwide. The need is to invest in next-generation rail travel where a passenger is informed at every stage of his journey in real-time to enable personalized mobility.

Mobility as a service (MaaS) is also gaining increasing traction today as the COVID-19 pandemic makes a strong case for contactless travel and minimized human touch points. Emerging IoT-based data sources will see greater uptake as they help travelers make better-informed choices about their journeys. The use of IoT will also aid in better planning and optimization of transport networks and services. It will result in a resilient and connected rail travel experience that is safe, seamless and has the traveler at the front and center of the whole transportation business. This paper identifies key drivers that facilitate a seamless travel experience with the integration of multiple rail journey elements. It will enable rail operators to offer personalized mobility services while driving operational efficiency.

A paradigm shift from physical to digital connections

EOdSfHKU0AARsxX
Improving Passenger Experience on moving Wheels 6

Today, the primary challenges plaguing the passenger rail industry include lack of multi-modal journey planning or last mile coverage, customer safety, siloed travel platforms, and non-availability of real-time personalized and contextual information. The latter leads to long delays and queues at the stations for ticketing, commuting services, and travel inquiries. Additionally, rail operators face issues with the migration of legacy systems onto new payment systems. Overall, the absence of reliable connected infrastructure resonating between the passengers, and technology service providers, underpinned by obsolete business models is highlighting the need for change in railways.

Mobility as a Service (MaaS) is emerging as the key driver that facilitates the shift from physically connected to digitally connected services. Implementing a digital ticketing or a frictionless checkout system that supports account-based, cashless and biometric ticketing in collaboration with other partners in the travel ecosystem could prove to be the starting point for a better, safer customer experience. It will also reduce the cost of travel for rail operators and passengers alike.

MaaS also facilitates a reduction in environmental emissions, paving the way for cleaner travel. Amidst and post the COVID-19 pandemic or any other future crisis of such nature, intelligent and contactless technologies would prove a key enabler of faster and safer rail travel. Already, health checks have become a norm in public travel and transportation. Going forward, digital factsheets/ general information about crisis scenarios will be an imperative need to guide railway staff on operations. The need is to have established protocols for:

  • How to disinfect facilities and surfaces
  • Training staff to handle passengers’ concerns on safety measures
  • Deploying health control checkpoints to minimize the risk of infected people
  • Generating alerts and reminders for regular disinfection of entry/exit points, customer touchpoints, vehicles, and equipment.

Moreover, systems imbibed with surveillance mechanisms, enable safety for travelers round the clock – in crisis and otherwise. These drivers could be supported by a robust IoT ecosystem and prescriptive analytics within IoT, the two foundational technology themes driving the future of rail travel. For instance, imagine that a train gets canceled while passengers are on their way to the station. The passengers receive a simple app notification informing them of the cancellation; while also providing a ready list of alternatives to choose from to quickly get to their destination. This would be an example of pure customer delight even in a crisis. Passenger needs in the future would go beyond predictions and this is where prescriptive analytics adds value. It not only determines or describes the travel challenges but also prescribes solutions to overcome them using re-route mechanisms.

Intelligent Rail Travel: Focusing on passenger experience and safety

Travelers today are eager to choose their own way of seamless end-to-end travel; driven by one-stop solutions, making multimodal journey planning a key trend. The future of passenger rail travel will witness ecosystem play where multiple vendors will be part of the travel management system supported by aspects like customer engagement, planning and routing, booking and ticketing, reporting, partner management, and payment gateways, all integrated on a single unified customer-centric platform. Ecosystems inclusive of retailers, travel aggregators, caterers, smart technology providers, medical aid providers, and other ancillary services will help create exponential value for travelers through industrial convergence. The benefits will come by way of a reduction in delays caused due to long queues at ticketing windows, commuting services, and travel inquiries; enabling frictionless automated payments and refunds, and ensuring seamless travel with real-time updates for passengers. Coupled with prescriptive analytics to assist passengers across their journey; ecosystems will drive mass personalization, while simultaneously reducing the cost of operations and risks for rail operators.

Personalization of Services: Services on Wheels

The various facilities provided as a one-stop solution for end-to-end travel support promoting enhanced passenger experience on moving wheels (Train aboard) and passenger transportation can be illustrated as under :

  • Onboard Entertainment
  • Music & Entertainment
  • Personalized movies
  • Wifi connectivity
  • Retail Merchandise
  • Personalized retail products
  • Parcel delivery onboard
  • Food on Wheels
  • Food booking from nearby restaurants
  • Personalized onboard food booking from Pantry
  • Onboard Comfort & KM
  • Attendant Onboard
  • Biometric / QR Code Ticketing
  • App-based AC adjustments
  • App adjusted recliners
  • Query solving on the go by using phygital assistants
  • Smart windows
  • Frictionless Payments
  • Digital payments & Currency Exchange
  • Fraud Management
  • Robo Guides
  • Travel Guides / Voice-enabled Chatbots, Local Maps
  • Language translator alerts on events at the destination
  • Linked Services
  • Smart real-time customized parking
  • Book taxis, metros, ride-sharing, ride-hailing
  • Medical Assistance
  • Book wheelchairs/personalized ambulance at stations before travel
  • Medicine delivery from the nearest pharmacy during rail travel
  • Frequent health checks at customer touchpoints

Passenger Safety

The engine for seamless travel experience Some of the key customer safety trends that are currently in high demand in the passenger railways segment include deriving real-time information on rail movements and leveraging predictive maintenance and driver assistance systems. As part of predictive maintenance strategies, some of the leading rail operators use artificial intelligence (AI) to identify defects in their locomotives and cars thereby preventing any untoward incidents. AI helps in predicting when assets need maintenance with real-time asset health monitoring sensors. The advanced driver assistance systems help in preventing accidents and prescribe solutions to avoid any mishaps in real-time. Cyber security is also becoming a priority for rail operators as the cyber threat landscape expands; putting passenger data privacy at risk. Physical safety, an erstwhile challenge for rail transport, is also witnessing increasing emphasis with rail operators leveraging systems with high-tech 3D cameras, biometrics, and sensors to track the behavior of passengers moving through subway stations and eventually report any suspicious activities. Biometric ticketing inspection would help in identifying passengers thereby reducing fraud. Machine vision-based automatic inspections, leveraging high-resolution video cameras and drone-based surveillance at the stations and depots are becoming a surging trend now, enabling the safety of people and railway assets.

Key Developments

  • Cabin designed to avoid ear pressure, especially in tunnels: Many of us must have experienced ear pressure during air travel. Similar challenges might occur in high-speed rail, especially while passing through tunnels. The reason is, that when the train enters a tunnel at high speed, an air pressure differential occurs between the inside and outside of the car causing pain in the ears. In order to overcome such discomfort to our passengers, the complete car body will be made airtight and a positive pressure above the atmospheric pressure will be maintained inside the cars.
  • Noise Mitigation: Noise is an inherent part of any machinery. Engineers work day and night to solve this discomfort for the users and those who will be around the high-speed rail networks. Many such features to reduce noise will be fitted in these trains. For Example, the use of double skin aluminum alloy in the car body, air-tight floors with noise insulation, sound-absorbing side covers over the bogie portion, fairings (smooth covers) between cars, noise insulation panels for pantographs, etc.
  • Special Lurch Control System: All cars will be fitted with an active suspension system that will minimize lateral vibrations due to car body swaying. Besides the conventional suspension system which uses spring and the lateral damper; active suspension consists of an actuator and controls vehicle body movement. Such features will add up to increasing passengers’ comfort during the high-speed rail journey.
  • Ergonomically Designed Interiors: There will be three different classes on these trains namely First class, Business class, and Standard class. Seats in all classes are ergonomically designed and have ample leg space for passenger comfort. Additionally, Trains will be provided with modern passenger aircraft-like features like LED lighting, overhead baggage racks, seat leg rests operating in conjunction with seat tilting in First class and Business class, reading lamps in First class and Business class, etc. Trains will also have other facilities like power outlets for laptop/mobile charging etc. Cars will be fitted with modernized toilets for men, and women and with special consideration for wheelchair accessibility.
  • Passenger Interface: Cars will be fitted with an enhanced passenger information system for regular communication with passengers onboard. LCD passenger information display system will provide information in English, Hindi, Gujarati, and Marathi. Displays will show information such as train name & number, current station, next stopping station & destination station, information in emergency situations, text news, door opening side, and speed, etc. In addition to LCD displays, a Voice communication system consisting public address system, an automatic announcement system, emergency call equipment, and wired/wireless interphone (for crew) will be provided onboard. All passenger cabins (both sides of cabin end) and all toilets will be provided with an emergency call system. Passengers will be able to talk with the train crew by pushing a button in case of any emergency.
  • Facilities for differently able passengers: The trains will be specially equipped to handle the special needs of differently-abled passengers. Certain seats in the coach will be wheelchair friendly. Wheelchair-accessible toilets will be designed with ease of use for special needs. Cars will have braille-enabled information signage in the vestibule area, toilets, and other required places.
  • Multipurpose Rooms: Apart from the world-class seating arrangement in each car, one car will be provided with a multipurpose room with a folding bed, baggage rack, mirror, etc. for sick persons or child-feeding women, and many other such purposes. The multipurpose room will be large enough to accommodate wheelchair passengers.
  • Passenger Security: Passenger safety is given utmost importance in this project. There will be a set of cameras on the front and rear ends of the passenger cabins and on both sides of the vestibule that will record any suspicious activity onboard.

The new trains (viz; Tejas, Vande Bharat, Hamsafar, etc.) will have special smart features for enhanced passenger safety and comfort. The smart coach aims to provide world-class facilities to passengers with the help of intelligent sensor-based systems.

It is equipped with Passenger Information and Coach Computing Unit (PICCU) provided with GSM network connectivity, which reports to the remote server. PICCU will record the data of WSP, CCTV recording, Toilet odor sensors, panic switch, and other items integrated with fire detection and alarm system, air quality and choke filter sensor & energy meter. 

With the use of Vande Bharat, Tejas SMART Coach, Indian Railways aims to move to predictive maintenance instead of preventive maintenance. The introduction of this modern Tejas Sleeper-type train for long-distance journeys is another paradigm shift by Indian Railways for enhancing the travel experience for the passengers.

DP0Tn1 V4AAxfwr

Additional Smart Features Includes:

DP0Tn2OU8AAqpmL
  • PA/PIS (Passenger Announcement/Passenger Information System): Two LCDs inside each coach display vital journey-related information to the passengers such as the next station, distance remaining, expected time of arrival, delay, and safety-related messages.
  • Digital Destination Board: A flush-type LED Digital Destination Board has been installed on each coach by splitting the displayed data into two rows. The first row displays the Train number and Coach type while the second row displays the scrolling text of the destination and intermediate station in multiple languages.
  • Security & Surveillance Monitoring: Six nos. of cameras are fitted in each coach which gives live recording. CCTV cameras with day-night vision capability, Facial recognition even in low light conditions, and Network Video Recorder are provided.
  • Automatic Plug Door: All main entrance doors are centralized and controlled by Guard. The train will not start until all doors are closed.
  • Fire Alarm, Detection, and Suppression System: All coaches are provided with an Automatic Fire Alarm and Detection System. The Pantry and Power Cars have automatic fire suppression systems in case detected. Emergency Talkback for medical or security emergencies.
  • Improved Toilet Unit: Provided with an anti-graffiti coating, Gel coated shelf, New design dustbin, Door latch activated light, and Engagement display. Toilet Occupancy Sensor – Automatically displays the toilet occupancy inside each coach, Panic Button in Lavatories – Fitted in each lavatory, in case of any emergency.
  • Toilet Annunciation Sensor Integration (TASI): Two nos. of Toilet Annunciation Sensor Integration are fitted in each coach which will relay dos and don’ts announcements in the lavatories, whenever it is engaged. Bio-Vacuum Toilet system provides improved hygiene conditions in the toilet due to improved flushing and also saves water per flush.
  • Stainless Steel Under-frame:  Complete under-frame is of austenitic stainless steel (SS 201LN) which increases the life of the coach because of reduced corrosion, Air Suspension Bogies – Provided with Air Spring Suspension in bogies to improve passenger comfort and ride quality of these coaches.
  • Board condition monitoring system for Bearing, Wheel, to improve safety, HVAC – Air quality measurement for Air Conditioning system, water level sensor to indicate water availability on real-time basis
  • Textured Exterior PVC Film:  Exterior is provided with textured PVC film, Improved interiors – Seats and berths having fire–resistant silicon foam, provide better comfort and safety to passengers.
  • The other facilities: Roller Blind on the window:  Instead of curtains roller blinds are provided for easy sanitization, mobile charging points are provided for each passenger, a berth reading light is provided for each passenger, and upper berth climbing arrangements are made conveniently.

Tejas-type Sleeper coaches are manufactured at Modern Coach Factory (MCF) which will gradually replace the premium long-distance trains over the Indian Railways network.

Conclusion

Since its inception in 1853, Indian Railways, the world’s third-largest train network, has seen tremendous growth and change. Much of the credit goes to the use of technology, which has improved the systems, infrastructure, and signaling, giving the train journey new meaning.

The future of passenger rail travel in India will be providing enhanced customer services and convenience. This will be enabled by an intelligent end-to-end transport system, capable of optimizing resources, learning from pitfalls, re-routing the journey, and leading the way with predictive mechanisms.

Digital technologies will play a key role in helping rail operators ensure better communication, crowd control, as well as operational logistics. The combination of IoT, AI, predictive and prescriptive analytics, and other technologies will pave the way for connected rail wherein MaaS will help interlink various modes of transport. Leveraging a connected ecosystem will help railway companies deliver mass personalization, thereby providing a best-in-class travel experience to the customers; driven by better safety and simplified processes. This in turn will help the passenger railway companies to track their customers’ preferences and analyze the patterns of travel.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here
Captcha verification failed!
CAPTCHA user score failed. Please contact us!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.