Deccan Queen, 79 & still the reigning queen

It’s 5pm at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus and there’s an almost festive air aboard the Deccan Queen: on June 1, Monday, the rani will enter its 80th year of ferrying commuters from Pune to Mumbai and back again.

Sixty-two year-old Ashok Patwardhan is comfortably seated in his chair, reading a Marathi daily. He has three hours to kill before he reaches his home in Pune, but there’s no hurry. This commute to Pune and back has been part of his routine for the last 42 years. “This is my home away from home. My morning journey starts with a light South Indian breakfast of idli, which I have here. I hope to complete 50 years of travelling in this train,” he said. And with more than a hundred regulars who have become his friends, there is no dearth of conversation, he says. Other commuters agree: they use the long journey to build lifelong friendships.

Raichand R Singh, an advocate who has been doing this route twice a week for the last four years, lists the unwritten code of conduct: “In the bogie I travel in, even if a commuter gets a call, he has to step out into the passage to answer it.”

Pune-Mumbai Railway Pravasi Sangh president Hemant Tapale, a daily traveller on the Deccan Queen, added: “Birthdays, anniversaries and festivals are celebrated on board.” But on Monday, commuters will cut a cake in honour of the Deccan Queen. Unlike with other trains, commuters – veterans and newbies alike – say they have a connection with the old train.

Meanwhile, S Sashi is busy in the dinning car. He has spent 32 years attending to the palates of the commuters. The Deccan Queen is the only train in its league that boasts of a diner. “The hot sellers are vegetable cutlet and omelettes,” said Sashi, pointing to the “Western menu” that boasts of fried fish with bread and butter. The walls of the diner are lined with pictures from the erstwhile Great Indian Peninsular Railway.

In the attached kitchen, cooks in blue-and-white uniforms are busy preparing evening snacks. With 10 minutes for the train to depart, there’s a frantic rush on platform no. 8, but inside the train, time stands still, as commuters settle down with their newspapers and hot chai.

A luxurious history

l The Deccan Queen started 79 years ago, on June 1, 1930. It was the first deluxe train introduced on the Railways

l It had 7 coaches; one rake was painted aluminium with scarlet mouldings, and the other blue with gold lines

l The under-frames of the coaches of the original rake were built in England. The coach bodies were built at the Matunga Workshop. A new rake, was pressed into service in 1966, and updated again in 1995

l A single journey first-class fare in 1930 was Rs 11 and 4 annas. Today, a one-way fare is Rs 267 (AC chair-car)–still-the-reigning-queen/articleshow/4598715.cms

Published in: on May 31, 2009 at 1:52 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Science Express’ to run from August 12

New Delhi, May 30 : The first phase journey of arguably the world’s largest mobile science and technology museum concluded Saturday at the capital’s Safdurjung railway station after a 182-day-long trip covering 51 cities of the country.

The second phase will kick off from Ahmedabad August 12.

Science Express, a train that was started on November 30, 2008, features over 300 large format science-related visuals, 150 video clips explaining different scientific phenomena and multimedia exhibits. The 16-coach train has thus far travelled a distance of 17,000 km.

‘The main idea behind Science Express is to promote the importance of science amongst youth. We wanted the students of schools across India to be a part of a scientific environment,’ said Dilip Mirzhapure, the project coordinator.

The fully air-conditioned museum-cum-exhibition is a joint initiative of the ministry of science and technology, the Vikram Sarabhai Community Science Centre, Germany based Max-Planck-Gesellschaft company and Indian Railways.

‘We have had over 12.5 lakh (1,250,000) visitors and we look forward to another successful journey of Science Express that begins on August 12 from Ahmedabad. This phase will be about eight months long,’ added Mirzhapure.
The train carried over 50 science communicators from the Sarabhai centre and other project coordinators.

‘It was a lifetime experience on the train and I loved educating the curious students who came to visit the train. Science communication is not easy but it was a learning experience,’ said Shraddha Gargatti, an engineer by training, who was part of the team aboard the Science Express.

Indian Railways may revert to PPP mode to fund projects

Projects Today reported that the Indian Railways have decided to revert to its original plan of setting up 2 locomotive factories in Bihar on PPP basis as the projects are expected to require over INR 3,000 crore investment and the railways don’t have that kind of funds.

According to sources, if the projects are done on PPP basis, Indian Railways will have to invest only INR 200 crore.

As per the initial proposal, Railways had planned to set up an electric locomotive factory in Madhepura and diesel loco factory in Marhowra, jointly with an international manufacturer. In the proposed JV, railways were supposed to hold 26 per equity and rest was to be held by the private partner. However, at the time of actual bidding for the electric loco factory, no bidders applied, while only GE applied for diesel loco factory.

Later on, Indian Railways decided to go ahead with the projects on its own and sought cabinet approval. However, the Railways could not manage to arrange funds on its own to execute these projects.

(Sourced from Projects Today)

Rlys plan to install CCTVs in super fast trains

PATNA: The railways are planning to install close circuit cameras (CCTVs) in all the super fast trains running across the country to further tighten up security on running trains.

It follows repeated attacks on railway property and passenger trains, said a Railway Board official. According to him, the railways have decided to install first CCTV in the premier Shatabdi Express and Rajdhani Express trains. The railways will then introduce this system in all super fast trains for security reasons. The new system will also help railway security personnel to keep a tab on the activities of terrorists, particularly at vulnerable places, he said.

According to sources, the railways intend to manufacture new coaches fitted with secret cameras to maintain a close surveillance on the passengers’ activities. Besides, it will keep a tab on those smoking on running trains. Since the railways have completely banned smoking either on running trains or on railway platforms, the CCTV would help the railways to check any nuisance in coaches on running trains, sources said. Under the new plan, the railways intend to install master computers at different places in various zones to monitor a strict surveillance through CCTV on running trains. The railway vigilance staff are working hard to prepare a foolproof security system on running trains, the board official said.

Though there is no time limit, the railways are very keen to implement this project within six months in all super fast trains running across the country. Keeping in mind the fact that new railway minister Mamata Banerjee is very serious about providing security and safety to passengers on running trains, the railways have prepared a foolproof security plan which will be placed before her soon, the board official said.

That apart, the railways are likely to introduce a new system in the Rajdhani Express and Shatabdi Express trains under which doors would remain locked throughout the journey. In any emergency, passengers could press the button provided in coaches after which a security staff would be available for their assistance, sources said. According to an East Central Railway (ECR) official, the railways have so far installed CCTVs at platforms.

Talking to TOI, divisional railway manager (DRM), Delhi division, B D Garg said that it was a long awaited proposal of the railways. The Delhi division is yet to get any directive from the board in this connection, he said.

Indian Railways evaluates new methods of disposing waste

In an attempt to go green over garbage handling, the Indian Railways is evaluating new methods to ensure that it is disposed only at designated locations, a senior official said here.

“We are trying to think of new methods of solid waste management and are looking at some methods to crush solid garbage on the train itself to make it more manageable,” Rakesh Tandon, MD Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) said.

“We are also evaluating non-burning methods to deal with the garbage and some firms have shown interest (in such projects). We are exploring the possibilities,” Tandon said.

Indian Railways, which is the largest rail network in Asia, operates close to 11,000 trains daily of which at least 7,000 are passenger trains.

Each passenger train generates approximately 150 kg of garbage daily, only part of which is bio-degradable, and there were problems in managing such large quantities of garbage, he said.

IRCTC was also considering to introduce garbage disposal units on the train itself which would able to dispose vegetable and other bio-degradable waste.

The Railways has already designated 600 stations across the country which would be responsible for the handling of garbage and caterers are instructed to carry sufficient material on board train to ensure cleanliness, Tandon said.

IRCTC introduces holiday train to J-K

Mumbai: The Catering and Tourism wing of railways has announced a special holiday train from Pune to Jammu and Kashmir with an additional air conditioned coach for the first time.

The Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) announced the introduction of a special 15-coach holiday train from June 20 which would allow tourists to go for the Amarnath pilgrimage and visit Jammu and Kashmir.

“For the first time on this train we will have an air conditioned coach,” Bela Meena, additional general manager IRCTC said, adding, if we get a good response for the train we may consider providing at least one more train before August.

The additional general manager informed that the railways will arrange for hotels/tents for the passengers of the train unlike for those travelling via ‘Bharat Darshan’ as they have to live in shared accommodations or dharamshalas.

Apart from better accommodation, commuters would also be provided with luxury buses to take them from one place to another, tour escorts and security on the train.The train will pick passengers from Maharashtra, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh before heading for Jammu and Kashmir and will charge about Rs 14,700 per couple for air-conditioned travel, she said.

Speaking about the already running special tourist trains ‘Bharat Darshan’, IRCTC officials said, they had received good response for the trains and all had been operating at almost full capacity.

“The trips that are planned for June 3 and 18 are already full,” Meena said.

“The potential for tourism on the railways in the country is immense but it has not taken off yet,” Rakesh Tandon, MD IRCTC said.

In the northern states of the country there was a large market of school trips into which the IRCTC could look to tap into and they would be able to provide more benefits than regular travel agents, he said.

“Pilgrim routes are very popular for special trains and we can consider increasing the number in the future,” he said.

Railway authorities were also working on ensuring that holiday special and tourist trains are run with punctuality, Tandon said.

Railways to introduce a paid travel info service

The Indian Railways would be shortly coming out with a paid 138 inquiry number along with the present free 139 number service. Presently by dialing or sending a SMS on 139, one can receive some basic information.

VERY SOON, one would be able to know full details and information about any train journey by just dialing a number or sending a SMS. Moreover, once can also book a taxi or a hotel room through this service. However, a fee will be charged for this premium service.

The Indian Railways would be shortly coming out with a paid 138 inquiry number along with the present free 139 number service. Presently by dialing or sending a SMS on 139, one can get the basic information like the arrival and departure of the trains, PNR and also the tentative arrival time if a train is delayed.

The soon to be launched paid service of 138 number will help commuters find out their seat number, the platform at which the train will arrive and the position of their coach. People can also book hotels, taxis and tours and also get information on the railway timetable. In Delhi, travelers are already booking taxis on the 139 number, a service that will be later shifted to 138. For availing this service one needs to register and pay a fee.

Registration of the 138 number service can be done on line as well as through the mobile.

Rakesh Tandon, MD, Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) said that the 139 service has been overloaded with inquiries and it was almost impossible to start any new services on the same number. So it was decided to start the 138 service and also have tie-ups with network providers. He further added that by March 2010, all the control rooms are expected to be computerised , thus making it more user friendly and providing more specific informations about delayed trains.

IRCTC has also decided to start an AC chartered train from Mumbai to Jammu and back after getting immense success of the low cost non air conditioned Bharat Darshan special tourist train. The Mumbai Jammu train will be a 13-night, 14 day trip and will include both religious as well as sight seeing spots including Vaishnodevi and Amarnath.The IRCTC has also chosen 600 locations across the country where contractors deposit garbage generated on trains, thus focusing of keeping the trains cleaner. The project was started in 2007 and 600 points have already been nominated.

Published in: on May 30, 2009 at 10:27 am  Leave a Comment  
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Rlys to help book taxis, hotel rooms soon

Mumbai: If things work as planned, by the end of this year Railways will introduce a three-digit number, 138, which can be dialled from any mobile number to book taxi service and hotel accommodation anywhere in the country.

“People travelling to different places in the country are interested in knowing whether their respective train is scheduled on time, which platform the train will halt and the position of their coach on the platform. Many passengers who do not have an access to internet want to make quick booking of taxis outside the station and get good hotel accommodation,” said Rakesh Tandon, managing director of Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC).

“We intend to introduce a service which will provide these and many more facilities for the passengers. This is likely to be introduced before the end of this year as it is being tried on experimental basis in New Delhi,” said Tandon.

Recently, the Railways introduced three-digit number 139 on which passengers can send an SMS to know the status of their ticket. “Passengers having wait-listed ticket or an RAC booking can send an SMS on 139 and can know whether their ticket has been confirmed,” said Tandon.

Not only this, the railways is also working towards the huge amount of garbage generated from the trains daily. “According to a recent survey, we have found that after any two meals – breakfast and lunch or evening snacks and dinner – every coach generates around 15kg garbage every day. We offer catering services on 800 trains in the country.

Even if we consider 14 coaches per train, the amount of garbage multiplies manifold. However, railways have only 600 nominated points across the country for dumping this garbage,” said Tandon, adding, “We plan to introduce a solid waste management programme which will use non-burning technology on the train itself.”

LCD screens at railway station soon

The Ambala division is all set to install LCD screens at the railway station to provide passengers easy access to all train-related information. Around 15 to 20 medium-sized screens will be installed at the platforms while a large screen would be placed at the entrance. The contract for the project, to come up on the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model, has already been awarded to a Delhi-based advertising company.

“The advertiser will have to bear the cost of the screens as well as pay an annual licence fee to the Railways,” said Ambala Divisional Railway Manager H K Jaggi.

The display of train schedules on the screens would be interspersed by social awareness messages by the railways and advertisements by private organisations. The display time would be split between the Railways and the advertising company.

Stating that all formalities have been completed for the project, the DRM said: “The screens will be installed within a week or two.” At present, the railway station has only an electronic display board at the entrance.

Railways to overhaul training process

As part of its modernisation process, Railways have set up a committee to overhaul training methodologies for its officers to raise their efficiency level.

The four-member committee, comprising adviser of Railway Board as its chairman and three executive directors from different departments, is expected to submit its report within 45 days, a senior Railway Ministry official said.

“They will evaluate the training needs of probationers of Indian Railways keeping in view the changing environment in the transport sector and initiation of a vibrant new culture in governance,” he said.

The Railways is currently in the midst of modernising its resources and plans to pump in crores of rupees for Dedicated Freight Corridor (DFC) project among other ambitious schemes.

Railways felt the existing training pedagogies, which has remained the same for long, was inadequate and lagging behind the advancements that have taken place over the years, the officer said.

New entrants are provided training at the Railway Staff College in Vadodara to help them understand the nuances of railway operations.

The committee would further review the content and duration of the training module keeping in view the evolving learning methodology prevalent in the corporate sector, PSUs and other civil services, the official said.

Railways have already involved its frontline staff in short-term capsule programme that focussed on making the staff more passenger-friendly.

Published in: on May 30, 2009 at 7:39 am  Leave a Comment