Instant online railway ticket booking

KOCHI: Muthoot Travelsmart, a Muthoot M George enterprise, has launched its instant online railway ticket booking system using its travel portal

M G George, chairman, Muthoot Group, launched the service.

Muthoot Travelsmart is the first organisation to enter into leading agreement with IRCTC to offer online railway ticket reservation services for the public through over 1,300 Muthoot Finance branches across India.

K P Padmakumar, executive director, told reporters here that with the launch of the rail ticket facility, users do not have to approach main railway stations and booking centres.

Muthoot Treavelsmart is positioned to offer excellent service to users for an international tour package or a local train ticket or clearing the simplest doubts about a tourist spot. The service of the Muthoot staff will be available to any person for gathering information on train routes to the chosen destination, fare details, seat availability and also procure ticket from that branch.

This facility can be availed of by a large section of travellers who are not able to book their tickets through internet due to non-availability of internet connection and not able to pay through the credit card.

Empowered cardholders of Muthoot can be given the ticket through e-mail by a phone call to any of the branches. A service charge of Rs 10 is charged for sleeper class and Rs 20 for upper class tickets.

IRCTC group general manager Rajini Haseena, regional manager K Damodaran and Muthoot Travelsmart CEO Bindhu Bijimon were also present.

Kalka-Shimla toy train a hit with tourists

Due to the summer holidays, the toy train running from Kalka to Shimla has become a favourite mode of transportation for people, wanting to get a feel of coolness of the mountains.

Ajay Kochhar, station superintendent of the local railway station, said a heavy rush of passengers had been reported these days at the railway station.

He said six trains, including a rail car, already plying between Kalka and Shimla, had been running packed to the capacity.

He said beside six trains already running on Kalka-Shimla rail section, the department of Railways, Ambala division, had started two special holiday trains 241-A (Duplicate Shivalik) and 253 up recently, which was equipped with chair car coaches and a rail car to cope with heavy rush.

He further said keeping in view the heavy rush beside the above said trains, another holiday special train no 257 up had been started from yesterday after a gap of four years, for the convenience of the passengers and tourists, some additional luxury coaches like Deluxe Chair Car, vestibule coaches and Shivalik palace, a party coach for couples had been attached with the trains.

On the other hand, scores of passengers from Punjab, Haryana and Delhi had to go back, as they could not get seat due to the heavy rush. The disappointed tourists had to hire taxies or go by bus. They said they had come mainly to enjoy the toy trains ride to Shimla.

Railways to guide people on unmanned crossings

Considering the need to man accident-prone railway level crossings, the Ambala Division has initiated a project to counsel drivers, teachers and children passing through 72 such identified crossings in the area.

The railway staff deployed at these crossings has been asked to stop heavy vehicles ferrying students and make the drivers, children and teachers aware about the safety measures to be undertaken. After schools reopen following the summer vacation, this exercise will be repeated time and again by sending SMS alerts to the drivers.

The Division has come up with this plan after analysing traffic flow across these 72 crossings.

“Other than counselling every commuter, documents of the vehicle will also be checked. There have been instances where a driver, who has a licence for light vehicles like cars, drives heavy vehicles like buses,” said Ambala Divisional Railway Manager H K Jaggi.

Texmaco to make hi-tech wagons

Kolkata, May 19 Texmaco Ltd, a KK Birla group company, has formed a joint venture with United Group of Australia to manufacture hi-tech wagon and locomotive bogie frames, it was announced here Tuesday.

‘A joint venture company with United Group, one of Asia’s leading end-to-end rail technology solutions provider, has been incorporated, and steps are being discussed to set up a modern facility to make hi-tech wagon and locomotive bogie frames for Indian Railways, the private industry and exports,’ Texmaco said in a statement.

The two companies had joined hands in 2007 for a 50:50 joint venture to form the biggest railway hub in West Bengal.

Texmaco has entered into tie-ups with several multi-nationals to exploit the business opportunities offered by Indian Railways, which has made a Rs.230,000-crore expansion plan in the 11th Five-Year plan.

‘The current order book of the company stands at around Rs.1300 crore, which would enable it to maintain smooth production during the current year. It would stand to be further augmented by the Railway orders under planning for 2009-10,’ the release said.

The company’s turnover was up 16 percent to Rs.1,091.25 crore for the fiscal ended Mar 31, 2009 as against Rs.943.52 crore the previous year.

Texmaco’s net profit rose 10 percent to Rs.75.84 crore last fiscal from Rs.69.09 crore in 2007-08.

The performance of the company was to some extent impacted due to deceleration exports, the release said

Century-old steam engine chugs in at Matheran

Another era returned to Matheran’s quaint hillside on Tuesday morning when a wagon brought a newly-refurbished steam engine to the popular hill-station. This engine, numbered 7-38 and a veteran of the steam engine era, was one among four bought from England in April 1907, over a hundred years ago.

Part of the Indian Railway’s drive to restore its heritage, it will now once again run along the picturesque Neral-Matheran section.

“In two or three days, a crane will be brought from Kurla to take it out from the wagon. Then, on May 22, Divisional Railway Manager of Central Railway M C Chauhan will come to Neral for a trial run of this engine,” said a railway official at Neral, even as residents and tourists gawked at the slice of rail history.

According to railway records, this steam engine was bought from German firm Orenstein & Koppel. The engine was one among a group ¿ engine numbers 7-38,7-39,7-40 and 7-41 ¿ that ran along the Neral-Matheran section from From 1907 to 1982 before being phased out in 1983. Between 1987 and 1992, by the order of the then general manager of Central Railway, 7-38 was stationed at the main gate of the heritage headquarters of CR, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus.

Published in: on May 21, 2009 at 9:51 am  Leave a Comment  
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Private rail: Strategies to stay on track

The Railways holds a special place in the hearts of Indians, most of whom have great memories of train journeys. But often, the impression is also of a bloated and badly run enterprise. Unde rinvestment since Independence is the key reason. This is also why the railway network has grown from 55,000 km in 1947 to just 63,028 km in 2008.

The Railways has been in the midst of a turnaround since 2004. The entry of private operators in containerised rail transport is expected to spur investment. Private rail will be a game-changer for the logistics industry.

Many industrial units in the country have been set up for tax reasons, which means that often transportation defies logic but represents a big opportunity.

In 2004, 13 licences were initially awarded to private players in the box-train sector, followed by two more. The industry seems to go through three stages — euphoria, reality check and maturity. The euphoria was reflected in the number of players that applied for licences, some for speculative reasons. However, there is no scarcity value as licences can be awarded every year. So money has to be made the hard way, by creating value, which is proving difficult.

Bypassing Concor

The second stage is a reality check, where the harsh lessons of an evolving industry are learnt. Private players initially focussed on the export/import trade, where traffic is one way — mainly from the port to the inland point but not vice-versa. In addition, more than 75 per cent of the containerised traffic plies between Mumbai and Delhi; the other significant corridors being Gujarat-Delhi and Bangalore-Chennai. Competition is fierce and the product is commoditised. Competing with the state-owned monopoly, Concor, has been difficult, as Concor penalises private players which use its rail terminals with high charges.

One way out is to build infrastructure that bypasses Concor’s facilities and establishes strong commercial ties with the customers directly. Both take time and money. The infrastructure to bypass Concor’s facilities and to be near the cargo is being gradually built around the country and the main build-out will be completed within 12 months.

Already, there are more than half a dozen rail-connected inland container depots in the National Capital Region (NCR) and the regional industry belt, and new facilities are being built outside Chennai, Bangalore, Nagpur, Rourkela and Raipur. Within a year, private operators will be able to operate a substantial part of their business outside the Concor network. This will help improve the cost structure, but the bigger challenge remains — access to customers.

Formidable competitor

In export/import trade, volumes are controlled to a large extent by the shipping lines. This is especially true of import volumes since three-fourth of India’s imports are on cost, insurance and freight (CIF) basis, as a result of which the importer has no say over the inland transportation leg from the port.

Some of the large importers may, over time, be able to negotiate inland rates, but in the vast majority of cases, the importer will not have the buying power to negotiate and the shipping lines will dictate terms. On the export front, while the customers have greater choice, the shipping lines — with or without a rail subsidiary — remain formidable competitors as they will be able to offer a total solution on the destination side.

The large shipping lines have little reason to tie up with private players as they can play the spot market or strike sweetheart deals with the monopoly player.

So, what can the private rail players do to compete? This is the stage of maturing, in which the players realise that the answer lies in segmentation and collaboration. Segmentation, in terms of geography or customers, and collaboration in terms of assets.

By 2012, the industry structure will change. Concor will settle into a long-range market share of around 55-65 per cent (down from 95 per cent in 2006).

A strong second national player will emerge, with a 15-25 per cent share and the rest will be shared by three-four players, which will be owned by shipping lines and focus on narrow trade corridors and export/import. The second national player will need to have at least three-five key hubs which it owns/controls to combat Concor’s position.

Over time, there will be only one or two players which will focus only on the rail handling. That can be a profitable strategy if at least 50 per cent of the facilities are in key locations such as Mumbai, Delhi, Ludhiana, Chennai, Nagpur, Bangalore.

Huge opportunity

The second player will have to build a successful domestic and export/import business. The ideal mix would be to bring domestic cargo to the ports where import cargo is being generated. Such a mix is possible only in Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, Kolkata, Delhi, where domestic and international consumption is large.

Domestic containerised transport represents a huge opportunity, considering that only five-seven million tonnes of domestic cargo, out of a total of 800 million tonnes carried by rail, moves in containerised form.

Rail transport in India will also change, thanks to the unusual combination of investment in ports along the eastern coastline and the gradual implementation of single Goods and Service Tax (GST) that will rationalise the warehousing set-up in the country.

Catch-22 situation

The investment in eastern ports will allow trade between the Far East and most parts of central and north India to be conducted through the eastern sea front.

For investors in this sector, patience and the willingness to commit large tranches of funds will be key.

Fixed costs are high and hence the high operating leverage, which means one needs to build scale and increase sales, which comes only after demonstrating investments and the ability to serve.

It is a classic Catch-22 situation. The investment risk is high but returns will be rewarding for those that survive.

Rlys to carry out survey for Bullet Trains

PATNA: A high level team of the Railway Board officials held a meeting with Bihar chief secretary R J M Pillai recently in connection with the survey work of the proposed running of bullet train between Patna and Delhi. The railways intend to carry out survey work soon so that its feasibility could be assessed.

According to sources, the total cost of the survey work on Patna-Delhi route is likely to cost about Rs 11 crore. This route falls under Bihar, UP and Delhi. Accordingly, the cost of survey is to be shared with the railways by these states. Of about 1,000 km stretching from Patna to Delhi, about 200 km falls in Bihar. The Bihar government is to share half of the cost to be incurred on the survey work of about 200 km, sources said.

A board official described the talk with the chief secretary as positive and said the state government has expressed its willingness to co-operate with the railways on the project. This ambitious project would surely herald development in the state and benefit the people, he said.

According to sources, the railways are conducting survey on the Pune-Mumbai-Ahmedabad, Delhi-Chandigarh, Patna-Delhi, Bangalore-Chennai and Chennai-Hyderabad routes. The survey work and feasibility report are being prepared by a reputed company of France. If everything goes well, the railways would complete the survey work in a couple of months, the board official said.

Bullet trains are specially designed to run at the maximum speed of 250 km to 300 kmph per hour in foreign countries. In fact, separate tracks are required to run bullet trains which are substitute to air traffic in foreign countries. Besides, no goods trains would run on the special tracks of bullet trains for safety reasons, a technical expert said, adding the railways have been running the fastest Shatabdi Express on Delhi-Gwalior route at 140 kmph.

The railways will require at least Rs 10,000 crore to build up the infrastructure to run bullet trains. Though maintenance of bullet trains, particularly locomotives, is very costly, the Indian Railways are capable of maintaining bullet train coaches with the help of advanced technology, sources said.

A technical expert of the railways told TOI that the Indian Railways have the largest network in the country and introduction of bullet trains would fill railway coffers as elite class passengers would prefer journey by such high speed trains paying fare at premium cost, he said.

High Tech services at railway stations

VARANASI: The days of delayed or no reply from the railway enquiry services, after dialing 131, are likely to be over soon. The railway administration is working to make these services high tech at Cantonment railway station.

According to R S Dubey, station manager of Cantt railway station, the new system would keep the staff of railway enquiry services on their toes, as they have to respond to the call within 60 seconds. If the staff does not respond to the call within stipulated period citing engagement, it would be recorded in the high tech data chip connected to the railway exchange including the network of railway enquiry system, he added.

It may be mentioned here that the new high tech system has been already tested in some of the railway stations under North Central Railway (NCR). Also, besides Cantt, the system is likely to be used in number of stations of Northern Railway (NR) including Lucknow, Moradabad and Bareilly besides other railway stations under North East Railway (NER) including Gorakhpur, Mau, Ballia and Deoria in the state.

Similarly, railway authorities at Cantt railway station are also working on ensuring internet access to railway passengers by opening cyber cafe at the station.

Published in: on May 18, 2009 at 5:08 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Get PNR status of rail ticket via SMS

LUCKNOW: Hung up on the line to enquire about your PNR status? Do not crib. 139 has an SMS-way out. The call centre service of railways that came into existence about two years back has become a little more friendlier.

Sources in Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) confirmed that sms service on 139 has become functional. Currently, it can be used only for enquiry of PNR status of passenger’s ticket.

Write — PNR (give space)(type PNR number) — and SMS to 139. The message will be delivered within no time. Since it is not a toll free service you might have to pay Rs 3 per SMS. “The service has just been started,” said sources.

The plan to transfer array of services provided by IRCTC on mobile phones through wide network of service providers had been in the offing since long. This time around, sms can be sent from any of the service providers except two. And most probably, it is BSNL and Reliance that are not providing the facility to its users.

The all Indian enquiry 139 already provides information about PNR status, arrival/departure of trains, seat availability and fare/accommodation when passengers call on it. For further queries, passenger can press a star and talk to the customer care executive as well.

Though BSNL, MTNL, Vodafone and Airtel users can connect to this number for information, sources added that sms service might not be available on all of them. Just as calling up on 139 is not free of cost service similarly sms service is also not a toll-free one.

Passengers can use it to confirm the PNR status after the information has been fed into the reservation chart which is usually an hour before the train departure. Since the service is a new one it might make passengers face some initial hiccups like time taken in providing PNR information.

On the other hand, Lucknowites will have to wait for booking a taxi through 139. Lucknow station was supposed to be one of the several stations where IRCTC was said to extend this service soon. However, regional office does not have any information on that.

“I am not aware of any such thing planned for Lucknow,” said K M Tripathi, chief regional manager, IRCTC, Lucknow. On the sms service, he agreed there was a plan to start the service soon.

IRCTC to soon cater to food orders ahead of rail journeys

The Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) recently forwarded a proposal to the Railway Board, Delhi to cater to the food orders made by passengers prior to boarding their train. If the proposal gets approved then passengers can choose from a wide range of delicacies by dialing toll-free number 139. Under this, travellers can order a pizza, burger or an Indian meal, and same will be served during the journey.

According to a report in Times of India by Nidhi Singhi, sources informed that IRCTC and Indian Railways will begin offering the premium service in a couple of months once they get the Board nod.

Certain railway employees also stated that besides offering fast food, railways was also planning to add Indian, Continental as well as Chinese dishes to its menu. Notably, commuters will have to place orders in advance and the meal will be served at the nearest railway station before departure of the train. “We also have plans to provide bookings for pizzas only at selected stations,” added a railway official. While elaborating on the project

Published in: on May 18, 2009 at 4:59 pm  Leave a Comment