Indian Railways are the largest rail network in Asia and the world’s second largest under one management. Criss-crossing the country’s vast geographical spread, Indian Railways are a multi-gauge, multi-traction system covering over 1 lakh track kilometres,300 yards, 2300 good-sheds and 700 repair shops. Indian Railways’ rolling stock fleet includes 8300 locomotives, 39,000 coaching vehicles and 3.5 lakh freight wagons.
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Indian Railways’ work force is 1.65 million and it runs some 11,000 trains every day, including 7,000 passenger trains. Freight traffic on Indian Railways has recorded an impressive growth in the last forty years time. Increase in its growth percentage during the last few years has been striking, particularly. From just 93 million tonnes of originating freight traffic in 1950-51, Indian Railways carried nearly 376 million tonnes in 1992-93, which is an increase of 304%.
This has been despite the ever increasing pressure of passenger traffic which increased during the same period from 1.28 billion passengers carried to 4.2 billion, to make an Indian Railways (IR) a leading passenger carrying railway in the world. The outlook for 2000 AD is an increase of another 63% in freight and 60% in passenger traffic.
Harnessing the potential of these vast and widespread assets to meet the growing traffic needs of developing economy is no easy task and makes Indian Railways a complex cybernetic system. Over the years, Railways have built up an elaborate and well established manual information system to help them monitoring their moving assets. Supported by a dedicated voice communications network, it collects and transmits information from the remotest corners of the country to control centres, at the highest level. The size and complexity of their operations, growing traffic and changing technologies, placed inevitably a heavy burden on this manual information system. Need for its modernisation was therefore felt for some time.