BEML delivers first standard gauge coaches

Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa on Friday said the future of urban public transport lay in developing the metro rail network in Indian cities.

He was speaking after flagging off the first set of standard gauge coaches manufactured by BEML for the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC).

Mr. Yeddyurappa said metro rail networks were “a safe and comfortable mode of transport in cities such as Bangalore, which suffer from severe traffic congestion.” Referring to the Value Added Tax concessions extended to BEML by the government, he said, “The measure has yielded rich dividends, resulting in world class infrastructure and manufacturing capability within the State.”

Union Minister of State for Railways K.H. Muniyappa symbolically handed over the first indigenously developed 80-tonne aluminium wagon developed by BEML to the National Aluminium Company Ltd. (NALCO).

Union Minister of State for Defence M.M. Pallam Raju said BEML had displayed the capability of diversifying its product range. He pointed out that the company had bagged the contract for supplying 150 coaches for the Bangalore metro project “despite stiff global competition.”

DMRC chairman E. Sreedharan said BEML would supply 196 standard gauge coaches for Phase II of the Delhi Metro. This may be followed by “an additional order for about 60 coaches when the Delhi-Faridabad line is ready for operations.” The DMRC planned to increase the length of its train from four to six cars. It had placed an “experimental order” for eight coaches with BEML to run these trains. “If the experiment is successful, we plan to introduce extend the length of 70 trains to six cars.”

Mr. Sreedharan said tax concessions extended to BEML by the State government had enabled it to keep the costs low. More such measures were required to enable BEML to remain competitive. While pointing out that the metro coaches were “still expensive,” he complemented BEML’s move to develop low-cost coaches.

BEML had played a significant role by developing indigenous capability. “When we established the DMRC we never imagined that metro cars would roll out of a facility like the BEML,” he said.

Chairman and Managing Director of BEML V.R.S. Natarajan said Chinese metro car manufacturers, aided by “special incentives,” had developed export capabilities significantly. “Permanent VAT and Customs Duty exemptions would enable BEML to compete effectively with Chinese manufacturers,” he pointed out. BEML’s research and development centre for designing and developing low-cost coaches is likely to be inaugurated soon in Bangalore.

The aluminium wagon, jointly developed by BEML and NALCO, is meant for use in the high-speed freight corridors that are being developed by the Railways. Mr. Natarajan said the companies had “acted proactively because the high speed freight corridors are not yet operational.”

Published in: on September 14, 2009 at 4:47 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Railways to develop 60 multi-functional stations

New Delhi, Sep 14 (PTI) The Railways have decided to develop multi-functional stations utilising surplus land across the country, work on which will begin in December. There will be shopping centres, a book stall, a food stall, STD booth, internet cafe, budget hotel and underground parking area at these multi-functional stations as suggested by the Expert Committee headed by FICCI secretary general Amit Mitra.

“Expert committee has submitted its first report to us suggesting various innovative ways to utilise railway land commercially,” said Railways Minister Mamata Banerjee here today. About the world class stations she said, the “Master Plan would be submitted by the end of October.

There would be 50 world class stations as mentioned in the 2009-10 rail budget and we are exploring innovative funding of the project.” About the multi-functional station, the minister said IRCON has signed an MoU with Rail Land Development Authorities (RLDA) to execute the project.

The Amit Mitra report has also specified a timeline for implementing various rail projects like logistic parks, coach factories and world class stations. (More) PTI ARU.

Matheran Light Railway for UNESCO World Heritage status

NEW DELHI: The Indian Railways is keeping its fingers crossed with the UNESCO World Heritage Centre deciding to study a proposal for the inclusion of the 100-year-old Matheran Light Railway (MLR) as a World Heritage Site.

According to sources, a UNESCO team will this month study the entire 19.97 km stretch of the railway route to the summer resort of Matheran, located at an elevation of 803.98 metres in the Sahaydri Range in Maharashtra, for inscription as a World Heritage Site as an extension to the Mountain Railways of India.

Should UNESCO give its nod to the MLR, the Mountain Railways of India will gain a pan-Indian tourist attraction status, with the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) in the east, the Nilgiri Mountain Railway (NMR) in the south, and the Kalka-Shimla Railway (KSR) in the north already finding a place on the World Heritage listings.

The MLR, which opened in 1907 to transport people who wanted to beat the heat to the “wooded head” (Matheran), harmonises with the beauty, serenity and grandeur of the mountain and forest landscape and is regarded as the “curviest” heritage railway in the world.

The 20 km line affords the pleasure of a steep winding gradient and incredibly sharp curves, so much so that the longer trains form a semi-circle at some of the 221 curves they negotiate — the sharpest being 127 degrees — and also includes backward-forward curves. The train also passes through 121 bridges and a ‘one-kiss tunnel’, so named because it allows a couple no more time than to manage a single kiss.

The MLR is a surviving example of engineering genius of the 19th century that led to the pioneering use of floating axles winding the train through sharp curves to gain height in tune with the steep gradient

  • Published in: on September 14, 2009 at 4:42 pm  Leave a Comment  
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    Get SMS updates on CR mega blocks

    THANE: The next time you want to get real time information about the railway service disruptions or even mega blocks then help is just an SMS away.
    The Central Railway (CR) on its part to convenience its commuters has planned to offer SMS based updates. Several issues and information on weekly mega blocks, major disruption of train services, launching of new services and passenger amenities etc will be available through this service.

    Railway sources inform that these updates will be provided free of cost to all commuters, who register with this SMS update service. Commuters with a mobile phone connection will have to send a onetime SMS START CRUPDATES’ followed by station name to the dedicated number 575758. A confirmation followed by a welcome message will be received by the subscriber from Central Railway and the commuter will start getting the updates on their mobile phones.

    In case of the customers wanting to unsubscribe from this service, commuters will have to send an SMS “STOP CRUPDATES” to 575758.

    The commuters will be charged SMS charge for sending the activation and de-activation messages and the subsequent update messages will be sent free of cost.

    Published in: on September 11, 2009 at 2:01 pm  Leave a Comment  
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    Railways to launch historic non-stop trains

    Indian Railways will add one more feather to its cap when it launches its new class of passenger carrying ‘Duronto’ trains on the next Friday, September 18, 2009. ‘Duronto’ will be the first ever non-stop superfast passenger carrying train in the history of the Railways and will herald a new era of rail travel in the country ensuring better speed, comfort and security for passengers. ‘Duronto’ trains will be non-stop and take passenger from end to end. It means that passengers will not be allowed to embark or disembark at the intermediate stations. ‘Duronto’ will be of two types, one is fully air-conditioned reserved train and other is air-conditioned and non air –conditioned combo reserved train. Outer colour scheme and design of ‘Duronto’ coaches is distinct from the entire population of coaches of Indian Railways. The fare of the ‘Duronto’ trains will include the cost of meals.

    The introduction of this class of trains was announced for the first time in the Railway Budget 2009-10 speech delivered in the Parliament by the Minister of Railways Kumari Mamata Banerjee in July this year.

    Kumari Mamata Banerjee will flag-off the first train in this series at Sealdah station in West Bengal on September 18, 2009 which will reach its destination, New Delhi Railway Station, the next day i.e. on September 19, 2009. The second ‘Duronto’ train will be flagged-off by the Minister of Home Affairs, Shri P.Chidambram from Chennai on 18th September, 2009 which will reach Nizamuddin Railway Station, the next day i.e. on September 19, 2009. When these 2259/2260 Sealdah-New Delhi and this 2269/2270 Chennai-Nizamuddin ‘Duronto’ trains chug out from their originating stations, their moving wheels will be writing a new chapter in the realm of rail travel which would change the country’s travel scenario in a big way.

    The Sealdah-Delhi ‘Duronto’ will be fully air-conditioned and a fully reserved train and will cover the distance of 1,454 kms. between Sealdah and New Delhi in around 1630 hours which will be around 1.30 hours less than the corresponding Rajdhani train running on the same route. The train will have one AC-I coach, three AC-II coaches, four AC-III coaches and five economy AC-III Coaches besides a pantry and generator car. With the launch of this ‘Duronto’, a new AC travel class called ‘Economy AC-III’ is also making its debut on Indian Railways.

    In the Sealdah-New Delhi sector, this train on its regular run will leave Sealdah every Thursday and Sunday at 6.40 P.M. and reach Delhi the next day at 11.00 A.M. In the reverse direction, the train on its regular run will leave New Delhi station every Friday and Monday at 8.05 P.M. and reach Sealdah the next day at around 12.25 P.M.

    Initially, 2269/2270 Chennai-Nizamuddin non-stop ‘Duronto’ will be introduced as a weekly train, leaving Chennai on its regular run every Monday and Nizamuddin every Tuesday. In the Chennai-Nizamuddin sector, the train on its regular run will leave Chennai at 6.40 A.M. and reach Nizamuddin the next day at 10.35 P.M. In the reverse direction, the train will leave Nizamuddin at 4 P.M. and reach Chennai the next day at 8.10 P.M. The fully reserved train will have both air-conditioned and non-air-conditioned coaches which will include two AC-II+AC-III combo coaches, two AC-III coaches and 8 Sleeper class coaches.

    The booking for the inaugural run and the subsequent regular runs will start across all PRS centres on a date to be notified by the respective zonal railways. The notified date will fall prior to the date of inauguration i.e 18th September 2009.

    Published in: on September 11, 2009 at 1:58 pm  Leave a Comment  
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    Railways to install biometric identification system

    New Delhi, Sept 9 Close on the heels of the Home Ministry installing biometric identification system in North Block, Railways have decided to install the same at its vital installations across the country.

    “We have sanctioned a pilot project at an estimated cost of Rs 4.4 crores for installing biometric identification at vital installation and offices of Indian Railways,” said a senior Railway Ministry official involved in the project.

    The project is aimed at enhancing the protection of major IT installations and PRS (Passenger Reservation Service) data centres in view of the threat of attacks which could disrupt train operations and damage data base.

    Zonal railways are to identify vital installation and offices where biometric identification system is to be provided, he said, adding all server centres and control offices have to be covered under the system and later the system would be extended to all production centres.

    Shopping complex to come up at Railway Station

    LUDHIANA: Railway authorities are all set to make use of some of their unutilized land for commercial purpose. Following announcements made by railway minister Mamta Banerjee, the authorities, with support of Railway Land Development Agency (RLDA), are going to construct multi-storeyed buildings on the railway station premises on private partnership basis. Railway authorities have asked RLDA officials to submit their designs to construct the shopping complex at Hoshiarpur station because they have ample land for this purpose. While they have identified four major stations including Jammu, Amritsar, Jalandhar and Ludhiana, it is all at the conceptualization stage.

    Sources revealed that authorities have asked RLDA to suggest some designs on the pattern of countries like Europe and USA so that passengers could go for shopping before boarding their trains. As authorities want to integrate a lot of things at one place, they are planning to construct budget hotels as well on railway land where the commuter could take rest. The city station has around 60,000 square metre land, but half of it is lying vacant or is under encroachments. The project would thus serve a two-fold purpose as it would enable authorities to earn some profit as well as to get their land vacated.

    ‘At some major railway stations, we have heard of such budget hotels or departmental stores from where commuters buy things and then they board trains,’ said Neha, a commuter. She further said it could save commuters from the bother of going to markets to buy certain things.

    Giving the information, Dharmendra Kumar, senior divisional commercial manager (SDCM), Ferozepur division, said they have entrusted RLDA with the work of submitting their designs to make use of vacant land in and around Hoshiarpur station. He said they would also develop other major stations in the division.

    Published in: on September 8, 2009 at 4:33 pm  Leave a Comment  
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    Rlys firming up policy for use of pvt siding

    The Railway Ministry is close to finalising a policy to allow container train operators to use private sidings to load traffic. At present, such operators are not allowed to load traffic from private sidings. The Ministry is considering a proposal under which the box train operators may be allowed to pick up such commodities as cement, foodgrains, chemicals, fertilisers, and iron and steel.

    As of now, there is lack of clarity on whether these operators can pick up these commodities that have traditionally been loaded in railway wagons. There have been instances in the past when the Indian Railways had introduced rules preventing box train operators from loading heavy, bulk commodities.

    The container train operators have been pursuing with the Railway Ministry to receive some benefits similar to the liberalised wagon investment scheme (LWIS). The Railway Minister, Ms Mamata Banerjee, had announced in the Rail Budget that the Ministry would formulate a policy to allow container operators access private sidings.

    The Ministry had unveiled the LWIS in 2008 to attract investments into rolling stock and long-term incremental traffic in bulk and heavy commodities such as cement and chemicals. Under the LWIS, a bulk commodity user of the Railways is required to invest in special wagons and sidings and, in turn, get freight concessions of 12-15 per cent for 20 years.

    The container train operators say that as they also make long-term investments in rolling stock (flat wagons and containers), they should also be allowed the benefits extended under the LWIS.


    The operators claim that the draft policy, in its current form, extends fewer benefits and will not make a feasible business case for them. “Under the proposed policy, by moving a commodity through container train operators, the Railways earns almost 35-40 per cent more revenue than what it would earn from a player moving the same commodity under LWIS,” claimed an official from a firm that runs container trains.

    In the new policy, which is under finalisation, the Railways proposes to let container train operators access private sidings and offer a ten per cent concession on the freight charges — which is lower than the 12-15 per cent concession offered under the LWIS. Also, unlike in the latter scheme, the Railways has not specified the duration for which the discount will be offered to the operators. The operators want clarity on this too.

    Similarly, under the LWIS, customers are not required to pay any empty haulage charge to the Railways. But, container train operators have to pay haulage charges for moving empty trains. The current empty haulage rate for box train operators is about 66 per cent of the loaded haulage charge.

    The operators also claim that since they work as traffic aggregators for the Railways, and have paid an entry fee of Rs 50 crore, they should be allowed to enter into long-term agreements with bulk customers. Also, they want the Railways to further reduce the haulage charges for running empty rakes.

    However, a point to be noted is that the haulage charges they pay are usually lower than the tariff the bulk users pay the Railways under the LWIS. Additionally, the Railway Ministry’s view has been that the container train operators should try and bring light-weight, high-value goods to the Railways instead of targeting heavier, bulk commodities — which have traditionally formed rail freight.

    Published in: on September 8, 2009 at 4:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

    Indian Rlys keen on setting up three biofuel plants in K’taka

    Chairman of the Karnataka Biofuel Task Force Y B Ramakrishna today said the Indian Railways was keen on establishing three Biofuel plants in the State with a capacity to produce 60,000 litres of biofuel per day. Talking to newspersons after visiting the plant of Labland Biotech Company, which produces biofuel through Jatropha cultivation on the outskirts of the city, he said Indian Railways was successfully using biofuel along with diseal on an average of 10-20 per cent across the country. Stating that Karnataka Biofuel Task Force was coordinating with the Indian Railways to set up the three plants, he said the first plant for biofuel production at Yelahanka near Bangalore was expected to come up during the middle of next year. Pointing out the importance of biofuel, he said though the task force was not putting pressure on the farmers of the State to cultivate biofuel crop, it was appealing them to cultivate biofuel as a subsidiary crop along with their regular agricultural crops. In Karnataka, the task force was actively involved in creating awareness on the usage of biofuel along with petrol and diesel by organizing various seminars and workshops, he added.

    Published in: on September 8, 2009 at 4:23 pm  Leave a Comment  

    Reforms can increase industry participation in railway projects

    Mumbai: Indian Railways, which runs one of the world’s largest rail networks, needs to implement a number of structural reforms to be able to draw more domestic and international participation in its projects, global audit firm Ernst and Young (E&Y) has said in a report.

    Strategy change: Indian Railways constitutes an indispensable part of the logistics infrastructure, transporting at least 40% of the country’s land freight and 20% of domestic land passenger traffic. Rajkumar / Mint

    In a study titled A Journey’s Chronicle: The Changing Landscape of Indian Railways, E&Y said state-owned Indian Railways requires an effective institutional framework and clarity on regulatory aspects when it considers participation of private firms in its projects.

    “During the bidding process for the modernization process of New Delhi railway station, confusion arose as a result of the different model concession agreements presented by the Planning Commission and the Indian Railways,” E&Y said in the study released in July.

    “Such situations increase the sector’s risk perception among investors. The Indian Railways’ policy should also clearly lay down the preferred strategy for all eventualities, such as single bids or conflicts of interest,” the report added.

    Because of a controversy on the conflict of interest clause, the first tender was scrapped. The railway ministry floated a fresh tender for the project, which is still being processed.

    Indian Railways constitutes an indispensable part of India’s logistics infrastructure, transporting at least 40% of the country’s land freight traffic and 20% of domestic land passenger traffic. It is the world’s fourth largest freight carrier, transporting at least 2 million tonnes of freight daily.

    E&Y suggested the integration of partnerships by the private sector into the planning process by disaggregating the planned investment into sub-sectors and subsequently into projects. Systematic project preparation should follow, it said.

    “As of now, there is no clarity on various railway projects,” said an executive with a Bangalore-based infrastructure company that is in talks with foreign firms to modernize the New Delhi railway station. “We are still keen on railway station modernization projects. That is going to the future. But lack of clarity in terms and conditions are discouraging us and our partners.” The official declined to be named.

    A standard contractual framework, laid down after considerable debate and incorporating the feedback of all key stakeholders, is a key ingredient in successful implementation of private firms partnering the railways on various projects, E&Y said.

    “A contractual structure of this nature should allocate risks to parties that are best placed to handle them and have an equitable risk-reward sharing framework. Such frameworks enable investors to evaluate risks and accordingly decide whether and how to participate in the bidding process for both current and future projects,” it said.

    The absence of such an approach could result in roadblocks, as in the case of the New Delhi railway station project where 13 consortiums were disqualified from the bidding process due to cross-holdings. A well-defined contractual structure, however, would warrant high interest for the New Delhi station modernization project and the 49 other similar projects that are to follow, E&Y said.

    Overall, India plans to develop 375 stations as model stations that will offer facilities such as drinking water, adequate toilets, catering services, waiting rooms, dormitories and better signage.

    Another negative is employee productivity at Indian Railways, which is among the lowest in the world. As Indian Railways is the largest employer in the world, low productivity would impact the sector significantly, the firm said. Labour costs account for almost 45% of Indian Railways’ expenditure.

    Spanning 63,273km, the Indian Railways network is the second largest rail system in the world under a single management and the fourth largest overall after the US, China and Russia.