Starting January 2019, the Indian Railways have begun a shift to satellite positioning to enable realtime tracking of thousands of trains across its massive network. 2700 locomotives, mainly used for passenger trains, are expected to be equipped with this system while the rollout is underway.
The new system, called Real-Time Train Information System (RTIS), has been integrated with the National Train Enquiry Service (NTES) and will thus provide passengers with accurate time of arrival data.
RTIS is now operational on some routes, such as the Bandra – Katra, New Delhi – Patna, New Delhi – Jammu and New Delhi – Amritsar sections. Charts are being automatically plotted on all divisions along these routes.
With RTIS, train movement will be automatically tracked and information fed to IR’s systems. ISRO’s own GAGAN satellites are used to generate accurate positioning information instead of the US owned Global Positioning System (GPS), widely used by consumer and industrial applications across the world.
GAGAN is India’s answer to the GPS, but operates with far fewer GEO satellites that focus on providing location information to India and its immediate surroundings. It is being used in applications where use of foreign positioning systems may have strategic or security implications.
The previous system relied on train movement information fed by station masters and conveyed to the section controllers. The latter would then manually feed data into the control charts. Entry of the data in this system was delayed, and error prone, apart from adding to the heavy workloads of the personnel involved.
With Automatic Control Charts based on RTIS, this entire process is no longer necessary as each locomotive, equipped with the RTIS device, will constantly calculate its location and transmit to IR’s Central Location Servers (CLS).
A significant departure from previous experiments at locomotive tracking is the use of Mobile Satellite Service – a satellite based mobile communications system in the S band. Earlier attempts used standard ground-based cellular phone networks for such transmission.
The CLS will then relay the processed information to the Control Office Application in various divisions for automatic creation of Control Charts, leading to improved operational efficiencies.