The railways sector has more scope to grow than any other transport sector. With a current length of 71,000 km, its coverage is far below what it should be for both passenger and freight traffic. The National Highways alone boast of 78,000 km (the total road network in India is 33 lakh km), and are expanding at a targeted (and more or less achieved this year) pace of 7,000 km per year. This growth is frenetic compared to what the Railways have even envisaged for the next few years. A length of 25,000 km is envisaged by 2020, half of it based on viability. The potential for private participation is therefore is up to 12,500 km by 2020.That said, expansion is only one part of what the freight consumer needs from the Railways. The systems that the Railways use are often incompatible with modern demands. The rest of the industry has moved to more precise, predictable and networked way of working. The railway system itself is networked, but its customers are often not. Although Indian Railways’ technology wing CRIS has produced solutions in tracking, procurement, maintenance and scheduling, their adoption has been puzzlingly either absent or non-standardised and piecemeal. Even the experimental applications have not found standardisation—a glaring and much-debated example if the anti-collision device (ACD). Although there have been noises made on the technical competence of the ACD used on Konkan Railway, there has been no substitution so far.Technology and automation not only provide more transparent communication, but also empower the customer with time-critical information that he will use to enhance business. Yet the problem is deeper and starts with scheduling. Much of the network is bursting at the seams at 120 per cent capacity (meaning increased transit times for unscheduled trains because they need to wait and go). Except for a precious few scheduled freight trains, a majority are run on need basis. Yet, despite prior information on wagon requirements and timelines, customers wait for days for wagons, only to be confronted with the next reality check—freight trains receive the last priority on tracks. Indeed, there is no centralised information system for the running of the train itself: Once the train departs, it is under the control of the section controllers until it reaches the next goods yard, where the next section controller picks it up. Apart from coordinating with station staff for through running on the main or loop lines, normally goods trains run without attention from station staff.Many of the recommendations for modernisation by Sam Pitroda’s committee are already well-recognised and Indian Railways is aware of the sometimes-urgent need to implement them. Therefore it is imperative that the five-year timeline on all this, as recommended, should see the light of day. Otherwise, both the much-needed revenue enhancement for the Railways (when new sectors switch from road to rail logistics) as well as the power and manufacturing industries will continue to be sluggish, spurred only by financial incentives but not by ground realities.