“Book a Meal” Scheme on Railways

The Indian Railway Catering & Tourism Corporation has introduced the facilities of ‘book a meal’ on a pilot basis on 2779/2780 Goa Express and 2627/2628 Karnataka Express from June 15, 2010.

Salient features of ‘book a meal’ scheme are as follows :

· ‘Book a meal’ option on the ticket confirmation page is provided so that passengers can do online booking of their meals for the journey.

· This facility is only for the fully confirmed e-tickets only and not on Passenger Reservation System (PRS).

· The meals booked will be served by the pantry car staff during the journey according to the service timings.

· Cash payment is taken by the pantry car staff after successful delivery of the food.

· No extra charge is payable for this service.

· The facility is available only for the normal users of the IRCTC website, not for the agents.

The project is launched on a pilot basis and its extension will be based on the experience gained and on the levels of passengers’ satisfaction.

This information was given by the Minister of State for Railways, Shri K.H. Muniyappa in a written reply in Lok Sabha today.


Golden Chariot train for Rs.50 lakh makeover

Karnataka’s luxury train, the Golden Chariot, which has been ranked among six best trains catering to tourism worldwide by Vanity Fair, a UK magazine, will soon have a new look. Having suffered wear and tear over the two years that it has been operating in the state, the train is being refurbished to give tourists no cause to complain about the luxurious interiors that they pay for as much as the journey. The train’s exterior design too is in for a change.

It’s operations have been called off until September 20 to allow the Karnataka State Development Corporation (KSTDC) and the railways to do everything possible to see that it lives up to its luxury tag.

“With the Golden Chariot having completed two successful years we thought it could do with a change of look and feel. We plan to overhaul the interiors of the train. From curtains to carpets everything will be changed,” says KSTDC managing director Vinay Luthra, adding that the corporation is working on the exterior design of the train as well and will soon come out with one.

The revamping of the train was timed to coincide with the off season, which begins with the onset of the monsoons. “We will not incur any loss as there are hardly any bookings this season,” Mr Luthra explains.

While the KSTDC is spending over Rs 50 lakh on the aesthetics of the train, the railways is funding the overhaul of its electrical system where necessary.

The Golden Chariot now runs on two routes. At the end of three weeks of travel in Karnataka, it journeys to Kerala and Tamil Nadu for a week opening up more options for tourists.


Railway seeks pvt help to develop 93 stations

KOLKATA: The Indian Railways has invited bids from private developers for creating multi-functional complexes (MFCs) in 93 railway stations across its entire network. With operating revenues under severe strain, the move is in step with the railways’ efforts to open up new revenue streams by generating cash from non-core assets.

These include three stations each under East Central, North Central and North Eastern Railway, including Gorakhpur, four stations under West Central, Central railway (like Gulburga, Wardha), South and North western, five under East Coast and South East Central Railways, six in Northern Railway and Western Railway (like Vasai Road and Lokmanya Tilak Terminus), seven under North EastFrontier (Agartala, Dibrugarh town), Southern Railway and South Eastern railway like Tatanagar, Jhargram, Bishnupur, and nine under South central.

The single largest chunk of MFCs —some 17 of them — are due to come up under Eastern Railway alone. This includes Asansol, Kalyani, Murshidabad, Malda Town, Ballygunj, Dhakuria.

The railways have asked Rail Land Development Authority (RLDA) to develop the MFCs. RLDA, which is a separate arm under the ministry of railways and develops railway land for commercial use, will choose plots out of railway land pool and develop these plots on a long-term lease basis. The prospective partner or the developer will have to design, finance, construct, operate, market and maintain these MFCs. “This is the first time such an attempt is being made by Indian Railways to use space around stations,” a railway ministry official said.

These MFCs are supposed to provide railway users facilities like shopping, food stalls and restaurants, book stalls, PCO booths, ATMs, medicine shops and variety stores. Additionally, budget hotels, parking and other amenities will also be made available at these spaces.

The railways have invited expressions of interest (EoIs) from prospective developers either on their individual basis or in a consortium. Depending on the response, RLDA will decide the eligibility criteria, terms and conditions of the bidding and whether these MFCs could be developed through a clustering of stations.

RLDA is in the process of identifying the location and plot sizes. Ideally, such plots will be located near stations that will ensure easy access and steady footfall. The plot sizes are expected to vary between 1000 and 3000 square metres. However, depending on the availability of land in and around stations, the plot sizes could also range from 200 sq m to a few hectares.


Teams to inspect food at railway stations

LUDHIANA: Immediately after laying down its own food policy, the railways have started bringing changes in the catering system as they have decided to constitute special teams for conducting regular checks on vendors to see quality of food being served. These teams will conduct inspections at all the major stations, including Jammu, Amritsar, Jalandhar and Ludhiana at regular intervals.

The railways had stripped the Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) of handling the catering at the platforms as well as in trains because there was no check on the quality of the food being served. Therefore, it had become imperative for the railways to keep a check over eatables being served to the commuters.

Officials said though the railway board had taken over the catering policy, stalls that were running under the IRCTC would continue according to the previous agreement but they would also have to bring reforms in their running. The teams had been constituted where an official of assistant commercial manager (ACM)-level would be the in-charge while rest of the commercial employees would be working according to his directions.

Along with this the officials had also decided to impose a ban on keeping things on the platforms that created hindrance to the commuters. The vendors kept several things on the platforms covering too much space and the commuters hardly got any space to walk properly.

While giving the information, divisional traffic manager Parminder Singh said that regular checking would be conducted at the vendor stalls so that food quality could be maintained.

As per the new catering policy, the railway authorities had decided to once again start the use of LPG at the railway platform that had been banned by IRCTC. In the food, too, the officials were going to start serve Channa Puri and an assortment of Punjabi dishes that had been missing from the menu.


Rlys seeks concept plan for world-class stations

Six months after Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee announced that Vasai Road station and Kurla Terminus, among 93 others in the country, would become multi-functional complexes (MFC), tenders have been called asking private developers to prepare a concept plan. Railway Budget 2010-11 has called
these MFCs India’s answer to world-class stations.

Vasai Road and Lokmanya Tilak Terminus (Kurla station) will undergo major transformation in terms of infrastructure and passenger amenities.

The multi-functional complexes will house shopping malls, budget hotels, food plazas and restaurants, bookstalls, PCO/STD phone booths, ATM centres, medicine and general stores and multi-level parking.

The development of these MFCs has been entrusted to the Rail Land Development Authority (RLDA), which has now called for expression of interest from private developers for a concept plan for the 93 railway stations under the MFC scheme. “We have asked for developers who can prepare concept plans for one or more stations. The concept plan can differ from station to station depending on the demand made by the developer on the basis of local culture,” said Anil Gupta, general manager (project), RLDA.

The location and plot sizes are being identified by RLDA, which will be located near the station building for easy access by rail users. They are looking at anywhere between 1,000 to 3,000 sq metres per plot. However, a few plots may be as small as 200 sq metres depending on the availability of land at the station.

“On an average, we are expecting at least 1,500 sq metres of land to be available for each MFC. The cost of these plots will depend on the local market value of the land,” said another RLDA official. These sites will be offered to private parties on a lease that could go up to 45 years.


AC double-decker train likely by 2011

India’s first AC double-decker train is expected to go into service by the year end, with Railways successfully completing its trail runs recently.
The train is likely to be introduced as an inter-city service on a high density route, having a separate fare structure, indicated a senior railway official.

The first AC coach was rolled out by Railway Coach Factory Kapurthala in March this year, after which it went for extensive trial runs.
Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee had inspected the coach here on March 31, designed for a maximum speed of upto 160 km per hour.

According to the official, they are in the process of obtaining the speed certificate of upto 105 km per hour.
“Trail run for 130 km per hour is also on in the Agra-Mathura section and this would be completed within this month,” the official said.
The official, however, did not disclose the section where it will be introduced first.

The train will have complete sitting accommodation with each coach having a capacity of 128 passengers as compared to 78 passengers in Shatabdi chair cars, thus increasing the sitting space by almost 70 per cent. Space for the two decks has been generated by optimally using the well space between the two bogies.

End-On-Generation configuration where power for train lighting and air-conditioning is supplied by two power cars, was attached at both ends of the train.
The coaches boasts of many superior features like aesthetically pleasing stainless steel body, high speed Eurofima design bogies with air springs for superior ride quality and many other safety-related features.
The coaches are also fitted with control discharge toilet system.


Railways plan around the country trip in 12 days

LUCKNOW: There is still time to go when `Bharat darshan’ train will take passengers around the country literally. Those willing to be on-board can book a ticket. The train has been proposed by Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC). It will run for 12 days beginning August 28. The package cost for the train is Rs 6,156 per person. The train will depart from New Delhi on August 28 and will pass through Moradabad, Bareilly, Lucknow (arrival at 0200 hours and departure at 0210 hours), Puri, Ganga Sagar (Kolkata), Gaya, Varanasi, Allahabad, Indore and New Delhi. It will return via Lucknow on September 8 (arrival at 1000 hours) to Delhi on the same day.

Those willing to know more about the train can contact IRCTC regional office, Lucknow at 0522-2305566 and 2305522 or can log on to the website http://www.railtourismindia.com, said an official release from IRCTC. There are also some facilities provided for this train, like confirmed train tickets in sleeper class, accommodation facilities at various places, all vegetarian meals including breakfast, lunch and dinner and sight seeing at all the above mentioned places by a non-AC vehicle.


Railways to accept bank credit cards as ID proof

The railway ministry has introduced a customer friendly step by electing to consider credit cards of customers having their laminated photos as their ID proof for traveling on e-tickets.

This move is effective from 6th of August 2010. So now the bank credit card is the latest entrant in the list of present accepted proofs of identity such as voter I-Card, passport, PAN card, driving license, Photo I-Card given by Central or state government, according to a top ministry official.

Railways also consider student I cards, given by authorized colleges and schools besides the PSU bank passbook carrying photograph of the beholder.

All railway zones have been told to tell the news to their staff so as to avoid any type of trouble to the traveller in this respect.


Rail test on collision buster

The Indian Railways has eventually decided to conduct trials on its anti-collision device from next month to see if it can be installed nationwide.

It has hinted that the years of delay in the country-wide installation of the device, developed almost a decade ago, had to do with the huge costs involved.

The railways were criticised after experts said the anti-collision device or ACD could have prevented last month’s train collision at Sainthia, which claimed 62 lives.

“We plan to test the anti-collision device in Arakkonam area of Southern Railway from September 1,” Railway Board chairman Vivek Sahai said. “After a month’s trial, depending upon its performance report, the railways would look at implementing it across the nation.”

Told that the device had proved its worth in Konkan Railway and North-East Frontier Railway, the only two zonal railways where it has been installed, Sahai said: “They are working on a single track. The testing would be on multiple tracks with automatic signalling and other differing parameters.”

Asked about the years of delay in testing the device on multiple tracks, he said: “The cost of implementing the project is huge. It would cost Rs 2,500 crore for the devices to be installed across the country. It would cost about Rs 15 lakh to be installed in a single locomotive and around Rs 7 lakh per station.”

India has about 7,000 locomotives and a similar number of stations, which would translate to Rs 1,540 crore for the ACD installation. The official did not explain where the other Rs 960 crore would be required.

The ACD works on the General Packet Radio Service, which is used in mobile communications. When installed in train engines (along with an auto-braking unit), guard vans, stations and level-crossing gates (both manned and unmanned), the network of ACD systems prevents collisions. It automatically brings a train to a halt if the track ahead is not clear. The train starts braking 3km ahead of a blockade or barrier.

The railways had developed the ACD after the Gaisal accident of 1999 killed 268 people. Experts have said the technology has been ready for country-wide use since 2003, and questioned claims that it may not be effective on multiple tracks, citing certificates issued by foreign agencies.

Railway minister Mamata Banerjee had in January 2000 climbed into a locomotive during the testing of an ACD. She then gave the green light to the project. The Railway Board had earlier said the device would be installed country-wide by 2009 in a phased manner.


Railways likely to install automatic doors in trains

PATNA: The railways is mulling over a proposal to install automatic door closing system in all mail and express trains with an aim to prevent mishaps on running trains. The new system will be on the pattern of Metro train doors which have automatic door system from safety point of view.

According to a Railway Board official, the railway ministry has taken this proposal seriously. It would be more safe to introduce it in long-distance super fast trains to ensure foolproof safety to passengers. Besides, the new system would also curb criminal activities on running trains, he said.

The Board official told TOI that passenger trains which run at high speed in foreign countries, have the automatic door closing system in each bogie. Similarly, the Metro trains running in the country are provided with this kind of system from passengers’ safety point of view. Thus, this proposed system is likely to check mishaps and criminal activities as well on running trains, he said.

A technical expert of the railways admitted that the railways would have to replace all old model and conventional coaches across the country so that new coaches based on German technology could be manufactured providing automatic door closing system facility in each mail and express train. At a time when the railways has been planning to increase the speed limit of all super fast trains in future, it would be mandatory for the railways to ensure closure of doors of each coach before departure of trains from stations.

It is possible only when the railways prefers to switch over to new technology, he said. According to a recent survey carried out by the railways, it has come to light that most of mishaps or criminal activities have of late occurred at different places because doors of bogies were kept open during night too.

Several passengers had fallen down from running trains which caused their death on tracks. The railways has thus mooted a proposal to introduce this system as a giant step towards ensuring safety measures on running trains on the pattern of foreign railways, a Board official said.

According to sources, the railways has been paying adequate compensation in most of the cases to the families of victims who fell down from running trains. That apart, it has become almost a habit for passengers to remain standing at doors while undertaking journey by trains. Once the automatic door system is introduced, safety would automatically become foolproof for passengers, sources said, adding the railways will have to incur substantial expenditure for manufacturing automatic door coaches with the help of new technology.