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How could complex public services be restored safely during the Covid-19 Pandemic in India?

Rail Saarthi: Your Speed Ticket to a Healthy Journey

Rail Saarthi is an emergency response intervention intended to streamline safe reopening of rail services for Indian Railways. 

This project won the D'Source hackathon by the National Institute of Design and the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay.

Soumil Panwar, Ayushi Gupta, Rishika Kedia

Project Management, Service Design, UX Design


2 Weeks

Indian Railways and the Covid-19 Pandemic

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During the Covid-19 Pandemic in June 2021, railway transportation was stopped for public use and diverted to supply of emergency supplies and essentials.
Millions of migrant workers were stuck in parts of the country struggling to return home with no alternative to get back safely.

The Indian government realized the need to restart public rail transportation but had concerns about preventing the spread of Covid-19 and safe crowd management in public spaces.


Overpopulation Challenges Safety

Infrastructure is overburdened
Rail infrastructure today caries 80-100 times the passengers it was built for

Migrant workers lack awareness 
High expenses with no income in larger cities led to panic and an urge to rush home among migrant communities

Covid induced anxiety
Travelling in public spaces was stressful, risky and intimidating for many

Design Challenge

Containing the spread of Covid-19 by minimizing contact in regular interactions on Indian railway stations.

How might we individualize public railway station experiences?

How might ticket verification on crowded trains be made contactless?

How might we organize movement of people and luggage on railway platforms?


Key Stakeholders at High Risk

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Migrant Worker Communities
Indian citizens traveling to rural cities and villages due to the non-affordance of livelihood in larger cities. These workers. These workers migrated in large groups with a lot of belongings for up to 22 hours continuously.

Traveling Ticketing Inspectors
Railway staff with a responsibility of checking tickets onboard trains and ensuring safety of parrengers. These inspectors travel on the same train and go passenger to passenger for ticket verification.

Current User Journey Maps

We created 2 user journey maps depicting interactions of people with various systems in the current scenario while traveling in Indian trains. These helped us identify touchpoints with a high risk of virus transfer through contact to focus on and design an alternative system.

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Frugal Adaptations of Physical Interactions

Essential services in public spaces this crowded are unavoidable. Low-cost solutions to prevent contact need to be deployed as a priority. A storyboard here highlights major recommended adaptations.

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Awareness of Covid Related Infrastructural Adaptations

There was a need to streamline and simplify wayfinding for travelers to adapt and use existing railway systems safely.

We proposed:

  1. Adding a layer of essential information on existing and familiar railway station maps

  2. These adaptations could simply be stickers on physical maps 

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Rail Saarthi Mobile App and API

With an intent to streamline ticketing, we recommended a Rail Saarthi mobile app for android with a feature of being embedded in existing railway ticketing and service mobile applications as an API. 

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Existing Railway Apps

  • API integration of Rail Saarthi

  • Faster user adoption

Mascot as Button

  • Aimed at simple recognition

  • Red highlights helps in identifying Rail Saarthi

Rail Saarthi Dashboard

  • Only essential information

  • 3 simple features


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Avoid Ticket Checking

  • Scan QR to self-check-in

  • Ticket checker is updated and he skips your seat

Digitizing Documents

  • ID and ticket stored on the app digitally

2 Step process

  • Complete self-check-in in two simple steps


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Essential Service 

  • Consolidated information and details for essential services

Checkin Before Time

  • PNR and journey date update train schedules and personalize protocol information

Personalized Instructions

  • Travellers are given clear instructions for new protocols for the station they board


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Simple Journey Details  

  • Updated and realtime updates for trains within a digital ticket for simple and clear navigation

Intra Station Maps

  • Maps to help find active and essential services that a passenger might need on a train station

Personalized Navigation

  • Extremely personalized direction given to disperse crowd flow and provide the shortest paths to their seats

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