Indian Railways is working with the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) to devise safety mechanisms to make train travel safer, union minister of railways Piyush Goyal said on Thursday.
The minister said that he met Isro chairman AS Kiran Kumar a few days ago as part of the efforts by Indian Railways and its technology wing RailTel to explore use of space technology for safety in railways.
The minister said it was Prime Minister Narendra Modi's goal to make Railways the engine that fuels our development journey (vikasyatra) towards a New India, even as he announced various decisions taken the railway ministry for transformation of Indian Railways.
Minister of state for communication (I/c) and minister of state for railways Manoj Sinha and chairman, Railway Board, Ashwani Lohani were also present on the occasion.
''Safety is very pressing and urgent need. The discussion, which we had was very eye-opening in some sense for me but also very exciting in terms of possibilities that open for engaging with space technologies that Isro has developed, helping in bringing safer travel to Indian railways,'' Goyal said at the India Mobile Congress.
Indian Railways has been under fire from all quarters following a slew of major train derailments last month that led to Suresh Prabhu exiting the railway ministry in the cabinet reshuffle early September.
Goyal said the railways, which has taken an early lead in digitisation and was the first to adopt computers, had lagged in expanding it to various operational processes like safety.
''Way back in 1960s, railways started using computers in a small way and by 1985 you had passenger reservations system all computerised. I remember banking started using computers in 1990s. It was quite an interesting fact for me that in late 1960s Railways started using computers. I am delighted about that but I do wish we had expanded those frontiers much to bring technology for safety for example,'' Goyal said.
He said modern technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning are going to change how the world works and India has opportunity to look at what is latest across the world and bring it to the country. ''I have asked RailTel to look at a programme to connect thousands of railway stations with wi-fi... we can actually provide the villages around railway stations with wi-fi connectivity and get rural India also connected with new age technology. Let's give them (the) same kind of opportunity that our children in cities are enjoying,'' Goyal said.
The minister said that round the clock access of connectivity and electricity is dream of billions of Indians and the government is making efforts to achieve it.
''Railways is committed to ensuring high standards of safety, speed and service for Indian consumers and also ensuring contribution to national development. In the past one month, Indian Railways has taken significant transformative steps to ensure this goal,'' Goyal added.