"We will undertake a massive exercise of GIS mapping of the entire rail route and assets including buildings, land, workshops and other facilities in the network using geospatial technology," said a senior Railway Ministry official involved with GIS mapping project.
Geospatial technology involves GPS (global positioning systems), GIS (geographical information systems), and RS (remote sensing). The official said geospatial services will be available from satellite-assisted navigational support through the GPS aided geo augmented navigation (GAGAN) system of ISRO.
"We will sign an MoU with ISRO shortly to avail the online satellite images to create a GIS platform," said the official.
The MoU will facilitate getting images and communications through the satellite system. While the images will help in mapping the area, communications will enable the introduction of wi-fi service in trains in a larger way.
The technology will come in handy at the time of accidents when it can be used to ascertain the exact location of trains and the topography. Besides, it will also help railways in developing solutions for safety at unmanned level crossings with remote sensing facility.
Safety at unmanned level crossings is a cause of serious concern for railways and the public transporter is exploring various ways to address the issue. Remote sensing system can be used to warn road users by activating the hooters before the arrival of trains at unmanned level crossings, he said.
The satellite images will also be used for geo-fencing of stations for paperless ticketing system. Geo-fencing is a virtual barrier which uses the global positioning system (GPS) or radio frequency identification (RFID) to define geographical boundaries.
Railways have started the paperless tickets in unreserved segment for suburban services in Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai. As per the plan, railways have decided to go paperless with regard to monthly season tickets and platform tickets.
Geo-fencing of stations is a must for going paperless and the tie-up with ISRO will enable railways in getting the required back-up from satellite, he said.
The technology is also expected to be used for tracking trains for disseminating information about their movement on real time basis which will be a great help to passengers.
Currently train movements are tracked manually.