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Free Wi-Fi on some trains

New Delhi, Feb. 26: Step in but no need to plug in.

A wireless world awaits railway passengers who will be able to access the Internet on smartphones and laptops during journeys, with minister Pawan Kumar Bansal today announcing free Wi-Fi connectivity in select trains.

While the move is being touted as what some officials described as “on-the-move communications and entertainment”, it is not clear yet how exactly the services will be offered. Nor did the minister list the trains on which the facility is to be made available.

The Wi-Fi plan is part of a larger information technology drive Bansal unveiled. He said the IRCTC, the rail site that allows booking 23 hours a day, would be upgraded to handle more users. A new module for booking through mobiles will also be in place, as will a better system for SMS alerts to wait-listed passengers.

Bansal said more trains would be brought under a real-time information system that will allow users to get information through the Internet and mobiles. RailRadar, a site that shows the current geographical location of a train on a Google map, has been functioning for sometime.

Bansal also promised a “next-generation e-ticketing system” by the end of this calendar year. “This will bring about a paradigm shift in the Internet rail ticketing by significantly improving user experience with respect to ease of use, response time as well as capacity.”

The new system will be able to support 7,200 tickets per minute, over three times the current capacity of 2,000, the minister said. It will be able to handle 1.2 lakh users at any point in time against 40,000 now.

The system will be able to easily scale up as demand increases. “It will make use of advance fraud control and security management tools, further improving transparency in the sale of tickets. I plan to roll out a more efficient and people-sensitive railway service system.”

Bansal said the railways were also looking to use Aadhaar cards to ensure transparency in tickets.