WhatsApp to the rescue of train commuters for real-time update
In the absence of any credible real-time updates on trains (arrival and departure), commuters are now banking on WhatsApp groups to save precious time and energy. Although there are several mobile applications such as the official 'Indian Railways' NTES or 'Where is my train', most users say the information is not real-time.
Users of these groups are mostly strangers to each other but are united in their dependence on trains for their daily commute in and around the cities.
One such WhatsApp group is 'Train to ITPL' comprising over 250 members of office-goers in Bengaluru. ITPL, or International Tech Park, is located in the Whitefield cluster of the IT city, and is frequented by techies. The park provides campus facilities for several multi-national giants like Mu Sigma, Xerox, Soais, Sharp, Medtronic, iGATE, IBM, GE, Airtel, Vodafone, Moving Picture Company, TCS, Atos, Unisys, Delphi, Huawei, Oracle, Perot Systems, Applied Materials, First American (India) and other medium and small sized companies.
Outside ITPL, numerous companies have come up like Dell, Tesco, Shell, Aviva, GM, Schneider Electric, Sapient, Goodrich / UTC aerospace and DaimlerChrysler, Symphony Teleca Corp and Tangoe are also located in Whitefield.
Every morning, the WhatsApp group comes alive with members flooding it with real-time updates on suburban train services. In less than an hour, the group exchanges not less than 200 to 300 messages, all related to the location of their commute. The group, however, remains dormant throughout the day until it is time to return home from work.
There are several such groups; some users say, for updates on trains to Whitefield alone, there are five WhatsApp groups. With trains not always punctual, these groups are helping commuters plan their travel.
Ironically, there are enough trains, but they are not always on time, say commuters. In the past few months itself, the Bengaluru division of the South-Western Railway (SWR) increased the number of commuter train services to 104 from 94. The highest number of train services, suburban in nature, are on the Bengaluru-Whitefield-Bangarpet line, at 28.
As per some estimates, over 2 lakh people depend on the suburban train services in Bengaluru every day.
Apart from WhatsApp, commuters are also using the instant messenger application, Telegram, to help each other pin down the location of trains. One such group is called 'Trainspotters', which was created for the Bengaluru-Hosur line a few years ago.
Interestingly, Trainspotters users take the help of emojis to pin down the location of trains. Here's how it works: one among the 1,900-plus members types a symbol - the turtle emoji, for instance, if they are waiting for the Kurla Express - and sends it to the TrainSpotters group chat on Telegram. Either a bot fetches the information from the government-run rail website and posts it to the group, or another person who is in the same train who knows the status responds to it.
If you are a regular commuter on this route and want to join the group, you can simply click on the link, https://telegram.me/joinchat/BPyA8zug8R4L5kb0-TLNXg , after installing Telegram app in your mobile. The TrainSpotters group has several emojis assigned to train stations and individual trains. For example, the red high heel is for Heelalige station, the tomato for Rayakottai, and so on…
As per the users, the emojis make it easier for people to remember the names of trains and stations with the help of visual memory.