Indian Railways to Track Wagons and Coaches with RFID tags

Leveraging information technology in a big way, the Indian Railways is set to make use of the radio-frequency identification tags (RFID) for tracking of wagons, coaches and locomotives to ensure the effective and transparent functioning of the system. For this purpose, the RFID tags have been designed by the Centre for Railway Information System (CRIS) at an estimated cost of Rs 1000 per tag. For the first phase of implementation of this project, the Railways have sanctioned a sum of Rs 57 crore.

The trackside readers that will be installed at stations and other key points would read the RFID tag fitted in the rolling stocks and would transmit the wagon identity over a network to a central computer. From here afterwards, all new wagons coming out of manufacturing units would be equipped with radio-frequency identification tags as a part of the standard practice. Indian railways have about 2.25 lakh wagons, 50,000 coaches and 9,000 locomotives in its possession. Earlier, the Railways used radio-frequency identification tags on Vishakhapatnam-Talcher-Paradeep section as a pilot project.

RFID tags will help the railways in knowing the exact location of wagons, locomotives and coaches. Such data at present is manually maintained and hence are prone to errors. By the use of RFID tags, the railways plans to address the issue of shortage of wagons, locomotives and coaches in a more transparent and expeditious manner. As the radio-frequency identification tags have a lifespan of 25 years, RFID tags can be removed and reused. RFID tags will be of significant use especially in freight maintenance management, locomotive management and coach maintenance management.

The radio-frequency identification tags uses electromagnetic fields to automatically identify and track tags attached to objects. The radio-frequency identification tags contain electronically stored information. Unlike a bar code, the tag need not be within the line of sight (LoS) of the reader, so it can be easily embedded in the tracked object. Hence, RFID is a powerful enabling technology that is being applied in an astonishing range of applications ranging from supply chain management and product inventory control to identity authentication and access control.

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