When Eastern Railway was run from Secunderabad

It has been satisfying to do a smooth transition in taking over the systems and also in handing over without major data loss, says official

When senior IRTS – Indian Railway Traffic Service (IRTS) officer Ravi P. Padi reached home after a normal day’s work earlier this March, little did he realise that not only he, but his entire team would had had to rush back and literally be on their toes for the next four days.

CRIS (Centre for Railway Information Systems), the IT arm of the Indian Railways, and its Secunderabad unit had to scramble to take over the computerised railway operations of the entire Eastern region within a couple of hours on March 8 night. The region has East Coast Railway, Eastern Railway, East Central Railway and Northeast Frontier Railways with at least 1,000 trains, passenger and freight trains moving to and from across various terminals.

The massive fire which broke out in the high-rise Eastern Railway headquarters at Kolkata killed nine persons, including a senior railway officer, on the day and the rescue teams had immediately cut power supply to all systems, shutting down the UPS too. This led to an unprecedented massive breakdown of services.

With most departments taking to e-office modules and running trains is a round-the-clock job even if ticketing is shut for a few hours, the ‘SOS’ call was made to CRIS office here. “Railways has four data centres in Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and Chennai but the only Recovery Centre is in Secunderabad. It was set up to deal with these kinds of emergencies for a fail-safe system in 2013. “We are trained to handle this but like any rescue team, we always hope and pray such a day should not arise, but it did come,” said Mr. Ravi Padi, General Manager.

CRIS not only handles the popular IRCTC for ticketing but also the freight movement, train control, crew movement, mobile apps etc. “We got the emergency call around 7.45 p.m. and by 11 p.m., we were able to restore all services including ticketing for 1100+ terminals connected across 15 eastern and north-eastern states/Union Territories. We maintained the systems for four full days till 11.45 p.m., March 12, providing seamless business continuity for millions of rail users from our servers,” he attests. A 12-member team, including engineers, worked on shifts to keep the systems running round the clock till the Eastern region was ready to accept the load. “We are trained to handle this situation, so we had an action plan ready, still it was a challenge as it has never happened before. It has been satisfying to do a smooth transition in taking over the systems and also in handing over without major data loss or hiccups,” says the senior officer.

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