India, Japan to sign pact for dedicated freight corridor

India and Japan are likely to sign an agreement for the first tranche of ¥9 billion, or about Rs 454 crore of the main loan, to fund the dedicated rail freight corridor on March 30.

This is over and above the ¥2.6-billion loan signed under the engineering services agreement in December 2009.

The engineering services loan will be used to prepare and draw up designs of the project and structure the bid documents. The loan will be disbursed by JICA to the Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India Ltd (DFCCIL) on an “as and when required basis” over fiscal 2010-11 and 2011-12.


Japan has agreed to a ¥450-billion tied-loan to fund the western corridor of about 920 km to be built between Rewari and Vadodara.

According to the terms of the tied-loan, 30 per cent of the amount will have to be spent on procuring equipment from Japan.

The engineering services consultant, who will advise the Railway Ministry on the procurement process from Japan, is likely to take about six-eight months.

So, the need to use the main loan is unlikely to arise before the last few months of 2010-11, explained an official source.

The amount will be spent for sourcing locomotives from Japan.

Route alignment

The Railway Ministry, meanwhile, has asked Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India Ltd to change the route alignment of the freight corridor at certain places to avoid acquiring land from owners not willing to part with their land.

The move, backed by the Union Railway Minister, Ms Mamata Banerjee’s “no forceful acquisition” policy, has put the Railway officers in a bind.

“The issue is even if the Railways were to finalise a new alignment, what is the guarantee that all owners along the new alignment will agree to part with their land,” pointed out a Ministry official.

Officials are yet to ascertain the extent to which this exercise will hit the project in terms of change in route length and cost.

Rly green signal for pvt entry in building tracks

Privatisation may be a dirty word for Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee, but public-private partnership isn’t. Indian Railways plan to allow private firms to build railway tracks in industrial zones.
Although a detailed blueprint is yet to be created, sources familiar with the developments said companies would initially be roped in to augment the basic rail infrastructure in industrial areas such as mining zones. The mandate could later be widened to include laying tracks for general passenger services.

“Possibly from the next (financial) year, railways will allow private companies to build rail tracks in and around industrial zones. Later on, depending on the response, their scope of work could be increased. But the details have not been worked out yet,” a railway ministry source said.
For the railways, the initiative makes sense as Banerjee has resolved to build 25,000 km of new lines by 2020, which translates into an average of 2,500 km of new lines per year. The railway minister has admitted that constructing 1,000 route km this financial year would be a “major jump” considering the “limited resources” available.

This, however, would not be the first time that such a venture would be attempted. The port-side project under the Pipavav Railway Corporation Ltd — a 50:50 joint venture of the railway minister and the Gujarat Pipavav Port — has undertaken the construction, operation and maintenance of the 271-km-long broad gauge rail line between Surendranagar and Pipavav port in Gujarat.

Ministry officials feel this could be a template for future plans.

But with land acquisition continuing to be a volatile issue, more so considering Banerjee’s opposition to forceful procurement, the involvement of private players in rail track laying could turn into a tricky affair.

On its part, industry has not ruled out the prospect of joining hands to develop basic infrastructure with railways. Instead, mining major Coal India — which is reeling under the scarcity of rakes and an inadequate rail network across many of its operational areas — is ready to collaborate but the usual glitches are evident.

“We are ready to invest (for rail connectivity projects) in places like North Karanpura (Jharkhand), which are crucial for our growth. But the work is progressing very slowly. Not more than 20 per cent of the land required for the projects have been procured,” Coal India chairman Partha S Bhattacharyya said.

Interestingly, the timing of the proposed private participation into track laying, too, is of consequence. If introduced next financial year, it might allow Banerjee to evade further criticism of attempting to privatise the railways before the crucial Assembly elections in West Bengal next year.

In the meantime, private capital can continue making inroads into the railways through the construction of world-class stations, auto hubs, ancillary industries, manufacturing units of rolling stock, multi-modal logistic parks, high-speed train corridors, port and mine connectivity and multi-level parking, amongst others.

Maharajas’ Express commences first Celestial India Tour

Maharajas’ Express, a pan-India super luxury train was flagged off recently by Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee from Kolkata. Sultan Ahmed, Minister of State for Tourism and other ministers were also present on the occasion. The train is being operated by Royale Indian Rail Tours Ltd (RIRTL), a Joint Venture between Cox & Kings (India) Ltd and Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC).

As per the company release, the itineraries include the Celestial India Tour, the Classical India Tour (the Celestial India tour in the reverse with minor changes), The Princely India Tour (an eight-day itinerary that will follow the Mumbai-Vadodara-Udaipur-Jhodhpur-Bikaner-Jaipur-Ranthambore-Agra-Delhi route) and the Royal India Tour (the Princely India tour in the reverse with minor changes.

The cost per journey on the Princely India Tour and Celestial India Tour starts from USD 6,400 per person on twin-sharing basis to USD 20,000 in a Presidential Suite. The cost per journey on the Royal India Tour and Classical India Tour starts from USD 5,600 per person on twin-sharing basis to USD 17,500 in a Presidential Suite.

Rail authority to form JV for Mumbai plot

Bangalore: The Rail Land Development Authority (RLDA) is likely to form a joint venture (JV) for its plot of land near the Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC), a business district in Mumbai, following a consultation with potential bidders, a top official said.

The estimated reserve price for the land auction is Rs4,000 crore.

RLDA, which had earlier failed to lease the 45,300 sq. m plot for an 80-year period, met 28 developers, including DLF Ltd, Unitech Ltd, Emaar MGF Land Ltd and DB Realty Ltd on Friday.

Most of the developers at the meeting pitched for a JV with a revenue-sharing model between RLDA and the successful bidder, said A.K. Gupta, general manager (projects) at RLDA.

The authority hopes to float the bids soon after it designs the structure of the venture, Gupta said, without specifying a deadline. The auction was originally planned for March.

The attempt to get feedback from potential bidders before the auction comes in the backdrop of last year’s liquidity crunch and a failed land auction at BKC earlier this month by another entity due to steep prices, say property consultants.

“The JV model will work well for developers because they don’t have to put in high capital investment initially and can put in money in phases,” said Param Desai, a research analyst with Angel Broking Ltd. The revenue-sharing system will also allow for the profits to be distributed between the two parties, he said.

RLDA was constituted in 2006 to develop vacant railway land for commercial use.

Gupta said the idea to informally meet the developers was not how most government organizations worked. “We have always followed a unilateral structure for bids, which was one-sided. But now we think it’s important to involve the other side and incorporate their suggestions too,” said Gupta.

RLDA, which is looking to sell land in Kolkata, Chennai, Aurangabad and Jamanagar, is holding similar sessions with potential bidders for those plots as well.

A Mumbai developer, who was present at the Friday meeting with RLDA, said the fact that a part of the land is embroiled in litigation is a bit of a dampener. “If the land title is clear and the joint venture model is reasonable, we will bid for it,” he said on condition of anonymity.

The previous big-ticket land auction was by the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority on 3 March, when not a single bid was submitted for a BKC plot priced at Rs3 lakh per sq. m.

NR to offer on-board cleaning staff soon

LUCKNOW: The railways plan to provide clean ambience to on-board passengers is still in the pipeline. The On-Board Hygiene Services (OBHS) plan has not been wrapped up. Northern Railway (NR) had planned to introduce OBHS to make train travel a different experience. But it waited to become a reality for want of funds.

However, things are expected to start moving on the plan. This after NR headquarters sanction budget for the cleanliness projects in 2010-11. “The proposal has been made”, said sources. OBHS will provide for thorough cleaning of the trains. Under it, cleanliness staff of a private agency will be present on-board throughout the journey. The passengers can directly complain to the staff regarding dirty toilets or coaches and get them cleaned.

The cost of implementation is high for OBHS because it requires additional private staff to be present throughout the journey. Railways own staff might prove to be less than the requirement.

Though OBHS had never been a time-bound plan, sources said, “we wish to introduce it soon because it will add to passenger comfort”. It is not one single project but a part of the railway’s cleanliness activities which might be outsourced. It will be a big value addition to passenger services in Lucknow division of NR if all the proposed plans get rolling.

The OBHS could be implemented in long distance and prominent trains of Lucknow and Varanasi stations. Lack of on-board cleanliness on long distance trains has always been a common complaint of the passengers. The dirty toilets, most of all, is the worst.

It was mooted along with CTS (Clean Train Stations) plan. While CTS has got rolling, this one might also become a reality soon. Most probably, by the end of this financial year.

Railways installs windmill at Aduthurai station

CHENNAI: Aduthurai may be a nondescript railway station between Mayiladuthurai and Kumbakonam but it has become the first in the south to have its own source of electricity — a 2 KW windmill.

When Tiruchi division wanted to do an innovative experiment on a green initiative, they selected the wayside railway station because it is small, does not have a generator and its power requirement is not huge.

This is the first time a wind mill is being installed in a railway station to meet its power requirement. Southern Railway general manager Deepak Krishan inaugurated the mill, installed by a Swiss company on a 20 m tower at a cost of Rs 3 lakh, on Friday.

Southern Railway has decided to try out windmills to power its wayside stations to reduce its dependence on the power grid. “The wind energy system was part of railways’ plans to reduce dependence on electricity from the grid. Through such methods, about 2000 KW can be produced,” Kishan told reporters that after opening the system.

“Power generated from the windmill will be used for all purposes — for signals, pumping water for the station, lighting and others. The station is connected to the electricity board’s grid but we will not be using it anymore. That will be a saving of power,” an official said.

Another advantage will be uninterrupted power supply. All major railway stations have generators as backup when power supply fails. But small wayside stations do not have generators and are often plunged in darkness if power supply from the grid fails.

“Railways is planning to have windmills at small stations because power consumption will be more at major railway stations. But, at small station consumption is less and investment will be less for installing wind mills,” the official added.

Railways exploring UTS on mobiles

At present UTS application is functional through face-to-face ticketing counters, outsourced ticketing terminals and automated ticket vending machines

New Delhi: Indian Railways and Centre for Railways Information System (CRIS) are exploring the possibility of implementing Unreserved Ticketing System (UTS) using mobile handsets.

“Subscribers of Mobile Phones is constantly increasing and to explore the possibility of providing ticketing solution through mobile phones we have called for expression of intrest (EoI) for UTS project to get a clear picture of the feasibility and the way forward,” CRIS Chief System Manager Monica Malhotra said.

She said at present CRIS cannot say much about the project but once EoI stage is over the way forward would be clear.

At present UTS application is functional through face-to-face ticketing counters, outsourced ticketing terminals and automated ticket vending machines.

These multiple interfaces have been developed primarily to extend ticketing convenience to the end-user and also to reduce the queue lengths on the railway stations.

But in reality despite the proliferation of ticketing counters the queuing problem has not been fully resolved.

This is primarily because of the fact that the passenger traveling on the unreserved segment generally reaches the station just prior to the departure time of the train. Peak hours therefore can be extremely crowded.

With mobile UTS application railways are looking at a win-win situation for the passenger and the Railways in terms of easier ticketing solutions that can lead to higher revenues.

As per the Expression of Interest (EoI) the desirable features of a mobile ticket solution will be that the user should be allowed to generate the Ticket by interfacing with the mobile phone from any physical location, for travel between a specified origin and destination point, The ticket so generated should be a smart image which should not explode into a full blown ticket till it is validated before the Journey is commenced.

EoI also stresses on features like ‘Self Destruction’, that is as soon as the validity period expires the Ticket Image should get deleted and the application so developed should make sure that it is compatible with even low-end phone so that maximum coverage is achieved.

Railway economy meal for Rs 10 per packet

PATNA: Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) has introduced economy meals at several stations of the East Central Railway (ECR) at the instance of railway minister Mamata Banerjee.

The facility for now has been made available at Patna Junction, Gaya, Barauni, Mughalsarai, Muzaffarpur, Samastipur, Darbhanga, Hajipur and other stations to cater to the needs of common people, IRCTC regional manager Rajesh Rana said, adding each packet is being sold at Rs 10 only.

The economy meal packet contains seven `puris’, 150 gram vegetable and 15 gram pickles. “Around 13,000 packets of meals are being sold every day at these stations,” Rana said.

There is a huge demand for economy meals at Patna Junction, Gaya, Mughalsarai, Barauni and Muzaffarpur stations, and this yields handsome revenue for railways. Initially, this meal was popular on railway platforms. But now passengers also purchase the packets before boarding trains. Railways is keen to further improve its quality by adding new items to the prescribed menu, Rana said.

The economy meal packets would be soon made available at other stations. IRCTC has given a few stalls of economy meals to private parties on contract while it has been managing its own stalls at major stations, Rana said and added IRCTC has deputed food inspectors to ensure quality and hygiene.

According to sources, the sudden escalation in prices of essential commodities is now making it difficult for IRCTC to stick to the pricing.

Published in: on March 25, 2010 at 4:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

Round-the-clock announcements at Central Railway

 Announcements will now be made round the clock at all suburban Central Railway stations. The CR will deploy 86 persons within a month for the job.

“For 24-hour announcements there was need for extra staff. CR decided to outsource it. A company will provide 86 persons who will be trained by the railways. We have given a proposal to the railway board for additional staff. Candidates will be recruited by the railway recruitment board,” said ZA Siddiqui, Chief Commercial Manager, CR. Commuters have welcomed the move.


Golden Chariot to run on two more routes

TIRUCHI: Two more tourism circuits are likely to be added to the Golden Chariot, the luxury train run by the Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation (KSTDC), by 2011. Currently, the train operates on two routes, ‘Pride of South’ covering Karnataka and Goa, and ‘Southern Splendour,’ covering Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Kerala.

“We are planning to add a circuit covering Andhra Pradesh and another along the coastal region,” Vinay Luthra, Managing Director, KSTDC, told reporters onboard the Golden Chariot which arrived in Tiruchi on Thursday on its maiden run on the ‘Southern Splendour.’

The 7-night and eight-day tour showcases popular tourist attractions such as Mamallapuram, Puducherry, Tiruchi/Thanjavur, Madurai, Thiruvananthapuram, Alappuzha and Kochi before returning to Bangalore.

Earlier, about 70 tourists, including several foreign tourists, travelling on the train were given a traditional welcome on arrival here. They were treated to a dance performance by folk artistes under the auspices of the Tamil Nadu Tourism Department, before they left for local sight seeing.

Collector T. Soundiah, Divisional Railway Manager S. Subramhanyan, Senior Divisional Commercial Manager A. P. Muthuramalingam and District Tourism Officer R. Dhandapani were among those who received the tourists.

The Golden Chariot would travel on the two circuits on alternative weeks from October 4, Mr. Luthra said. The train, complete with a spa, gym and communication centre, offers five-star comfort to travellers. It has been rated as one of the top seven train journeys in the world by Vanity Fair, United Kingdom, he said.

Commenting on the response to the tour, he said the maiden journey of Southern Splendour has met with a good response. The other circuit too was doing well. Nearly 80 per cent of the tourists were foreigners and most of them are from the United Kingdom. The Golden Chariot was expected to break even by next financial year, Mr. Luthra said.