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Indian Railways using RFID to track Rolling Stock (Railway Vehicles)

  • Abhishek Shukla
  • Feb 28, 2024
  • RFID
Indian Railways using RFID to track Rolling Stock

The RFID technology has become quite ubiquitous and it’s heartening to see that developing countries are waking up to this new age reality where technology can play a great role in creating robust infrastructure, strengthening the supply chain networks and streamlining logistics operations. In august 2022, the Indian Prime Minister made a call to create digital infrastructure that supports modern logistics needs, enabling quick movement of materials and resources aimed at bringing down the Indian Logistics costs to 8% of GDP from 12%-14% of GDP by 2030 and subsequently National Logistics Policy (NLP) was launched in 2022.

 It is worth noting that technologies such as RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) and IoT (Internet of Things) have a great role to play here. Keeping that in mind, use of RFID to track rolling stock in Indian railways is a good move.

A report published in 2020 stated that ‘Indian Railways is on a mission to RFID tag all wagons by December 2022.’ And so far 23000 wagons have been already tagged with RFID tags.

RFID Technology and Indian Railways

The RFID technology is not new. It has been around some 70 odd years  but the technology found the commercial success only with the development in internet technology in 2000s.

Indian Railways, which is currently the fourth largest railways after USA, China, Russia, considered RFID as a technological solution way back in 1996 when Indian BEL (Bharat Electronics Limited) demonstrated the capabilities of RFID on some freight wagons, especially the container flats.

For the second phase of technology demonstration to prove pilot trials, a selection of wagons running in closed circuits in East Coast Railway was chosen. In 2008, RFID tags were fitted to 500 BOBRN (Bogie Open Bottom Rapid Discharge Hopper Wagon) wagons, and readers were installed at Visakhapatnam, Talcher, and Paradeep, with one handheld reader at Visakhapatnam. These fixed readers were connected to a central server at CRIS (Centre for Railway Information Systems) via the FOIS network. The pilot trials gave the Indian Railways confidence that the technology could be used effectively

However, the technology used for the trials was expensive and proprietary, so it was not widely adopted at that time.

RFID for Railway Vehicle Identification

In 2016, with the prices of RFID implementation coming down significantly, Indian railways took to RFID to tag high speed railway cars and the trail was successful. Later in 2017, and 2019 series fitness of RFID tags in newly built coaches started and CRIS provided the necessary data integration and back-end support for this effort. In April 2023, CRIS developed an in-house Android App for data encoding on tags, Ganga 15.2 being the latest update.


Benefits of Using RFID to Track Rolling Stock

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags have become increasingly popular in the railway industry as a means of tracking rolling stock. The technology involves the use of small, electronic tags which emit a signal that can be detected by a reader. When applied to rolling stock, these tags can provide a range of benefits for railway operators. With the new high speed train coaches such as Vande Bharat, use of RFID provides an efficient identification system, even in unfavorable circumstances.

Let’s see some of the benefits of using RFID to track Rolling stock:

Real-time Tracking of Rolling Stock

One benefit of using RFID to track rolling stock is its ability to accurately locate assets in real-time, helping railway operators to optimize their track usage by quickly identifying any available rolling stock that can be used to fulfill a customer's demands.

RFID can also help operators to avoid the need for manual inspections or maintenance checks, as the system can automatically identify and report any rolling stock that requires attention.

Enhanced Security

Using RFID to track rolling stock also provides enhanced security. The tags can contain information about the asset, such as its location, maintenance history and current condition, which can be accessed by authorized personnel. It deters and prevents theft, as well as improves the efficiency of investigations into any incidents that do occur.

Increased Operational Efficiency

The use of RFID can also enable railway operators to increase operational efficiency. By tracking rolling stock with RFID, they can reduce the time and cost of identifying and locating specific assets resulting in faster turnaround times and increased productivity levels.

Its ability to automate maintenance reports can help to reduce downtime and improve overall operational efficiency.

Monitor Load Capacity and Speed Limits

RFID technology can also help to improve safety on railways. The RFID tags can be configured with information about each rolling stock’s load capacity, which can assist operators in ensuring that they do not exceed the maximum weight limit of each train.

Moreover, RFID tags can record information about the speed and location of each train, which can be used to monitor and enforce speed limits.

Accurate Data on Rolling stock

RFID can help to improve the accuracy of rolling stock reports and data analysis. Data on asset utilization, maintenance history, and other key metrics can be accessed in real-time, providing railway operators with a more accurate picture of the health and performance of their fleet. By using RFID, IR can create a greater level of transparency between stakeholders, such as operators, manufacturers, and regulatory bodies.

To summarize, use of technology can benefit Indian railways immensely and the benefits of using RFID to track rolling stock are numerous and varied. By providing real-time tracking, enhanced security, increased operational efficiency, improved safety, and more accurate data analysis, RFID technology has become an important tool for the railway industry and as the costs come down, it will further provide more opportunities in railway vehicle tracking and monitoring.


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  • Created on Jul 17, 2023

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