Satellite-based system for tracking trains

Tired of getting inaccurate and snail-paced information on movement of trains?

Help is expected soon with the Railways going ahead with the Rs. 110 crore satellite-based system to replace manual tracking of trains to provide its exact position on real-time basis.

The real-time train information system (RTIS) aims to provide train running information to the public through internet, SMS on mobile phones, call centres and through train indication boards at stations.

It will also give information to onboard passengers through the provision of display system inside the coaches.

“Efforts are on to replace the manual recording system with RTIS by connecting 8,000 trains and 8,177 stations across the country,” said a senior Railway Ministry official.

To keep track of trains, currently station masters call up the control room at the divisional headquarters every time a train passes their station. Because of this manually controlled system, the information is sometimes inadequate.

As per the plan, Railways is to install loco devices in all locomotives and stations to receive dynamic data on train movement through satellite.

Name of the incoming train, speed, time duration and all relevant information required by passengers will be made available automatically once the system becomes operational.

“Trials are being carried out in certain Shatabdi and Rajdhani trains on a pilot project and the results are very encouraging,” said the official.

The system developed by IIT-Kanpur and RDSO uses global positioning system (GPS) and global system (GS) for mobile communication technology to transmit information.

Digital mapping of 8,177 stations of Indian Railways have so far been done. “Since all our control offices are now computerised the system will be utilised for tracking freight trains as well,” said the official.

“One can even track a particular train on internet through the RTIS,” the official added.

Other advantages of this system is that locomotive running information shall be available in the server which can be analysed to improve its efficiency.

Train running information like location, speed, direction on real-time basis can be analysed to improve the train running in a particular section.

Digital map of the railway station can also be used for linking various station data, yard information, signal information, city and hospital information which will be useful during any emergency.

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IRCTC enters into non-railway catering

The Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), an established entity in food catering that has been providing food to millions of railway passengers across the country, has entered into non-railway catering as well. In an interaction with Express Hospitality, Virender Singh, group general manager, IRCTC – West Zone informed, “IRCTC already serves 1.7 million railway passengers per day and approximately 10 lakh meals are served per day. Approximately one crore cups of tea/coffee are served to the passengers by IRCTC on the Railway network. We have successfully taken the catering business of Indian Railways, which is estimated to be around ` 2000 crore per annum, to non-railway segment.” In her budget speech for FY12, Minister for Railways, Mamata Banerjee had mentioned the development of several business-oriented policies, and a new catering policy is one of them.

According to Singh, IRCTC, West Zone has been in talks with leading PSUs and is in the final stages of signing MoUs with these organisations to launch their pilot projects in the states of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, which come under the purview of West Zone. He said, “We have formed a fast track team comprising of a joint general manager, assistant manager and supervisors who are on the job, meeting various PSUs and other corporate organisations that have huge canteen/mess facilities. IRCTC is also capable of managing end-to-end hospitality services that would include front office and housekeeping.”

When asked why railways’ catering is not considered of high quality by the travelling public, Singh countered, “We agree with the public perception. However, it is also a well accepted fact that IRCTC was considerably successful in bringing some noticeable amount of change in the way various brands were bought in over the Railways network during the short tenure it was given. It will also be our objective to ensure optimum use of our professional staff by imparting continuous training and regular induction programmes.”

Apart from its massive delivery system on the catering front through on-board catering services, static catering units on the Indian Railway network, IRCTC also mans multi-cuisine food courts, food plazas, food stalls, automatic vending machine kiosks and also budget hotels on a pan-India basis. Singh added, “The main objective of this PSU is to provide a single window-service for hospitality, travel and tourism products. IRCTC has got strength of more than 1500 specialised hospitality professionals and widespread network across India. IRCTC has already ventured out in the non railway catering projects by taking up the hospitality services in various ministries and organisations. As such, a policy regarding Non Railway catering project is already in place giving guidelines to execute these projects.”

It is already catering to Ministry of External Affairs, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Agriculture, IIT-New Delhi, Indian Institute of Public Administration, New Delhi, SGPG Institute of Medical Sciences, Lucknow, etc. Also, last year during the CWG 2010, IRCTC provided catering services in some of the major venues.

Published in: on March 19, 2011 at 3:23 pm  Leave a Comment  

Go trainspotting at Bangalore railway station

The Bangalore Division of the South Western Railway (SWR) has put a replica of the 4,500 horse power diesel loco — Wide Diesel Passenger (WDP4) Locomotive — on display at the City Railway Station.

Manufactured by the Diesel Locomotive Work, Varanasi, 44 such locos are being maintained by the Diesel Locomotive Shed, Krishnarajapuram, in Bangalore. Since the loco is a matter of prestige for the Indian Railways, the Bangalore Division thought it fit to keep its replica on display, said Divisional Railway Manager Sudhanshu Mani.

Mr. Mani said WDP4 is the most powerful diesel engine available in India, which can haul up to 24 coaches at a time. Train rakes with a minimum of 21 coaches are fitted with this loco and many trains leaving Bangalore are hauled by this engine, he noted. “Also, WDP4 is the most technologically advanced loco and hence we thought of displaying its replica at the City Station,” he added. A railway engineer familiar with WDP4 said that this loco can clock up to 160 km per hour and is fitted with state-of-the-art microprocessor-based controls. These technological advancements make the loco one of the safest engines to be deployed to haul passenger coaches, the engineer noted.

While a conventional loco consumes about 164 gm diesel to produce 1 bhp, WDP4 consumes 155 gm of diesel to produce the same power, he said. Across the country, there are about 400 WDP4 locos, the engineer added.

The replica is kept for display near the parking lot at the Okalipuram entrance of the City Railway Station.

New magazine to spice up rail travel

Railway minister Mamata Banerjee has decided to launch a new magazine “Rail Bandhu” on April 16 to mark the celebration of Railway Week across the country. The proposed magazine will be brought out by the railways on the pattern of magazines of the Air India and Indian Airlines. It will be the first of its kind in the railways.

According to a Railway Board official, “Rail Bandhu” will be distributed to passengers free of cost . The magazines will be made available in all premier trains, including the Rajdhani Express, Shatabdi Express and other mail and express trains, to provide entertainment to elite class passengers, he said.

The official said about 1 lakh copies of the magazine would be brought out initially. The railways intends to increase its number to 10 lakh in future so that it could be distributed in each zone of the railways. “The magazine will have 60 pages, of which 30 pages will have news items and articles while the remaining pages will cover other topics ,” he said, adding the railways has planned to publish interesting articles about Rabindranath Tagore’s famous work “Gitanjali”, vignettes of the saloon car travel during the British period and stories by Ruskin Bond in the inaugural issue.

Besides, the inaugural issue of the magazine will also feature stories about development of games and sports in the railways. Stories about success and achievements of outstanding railway sportspersons, including winners of gold, silver and bronze medals in the Commonwealth and Asian Games, will also be published in the inaugural issue, sources said.

“Rail Bandhu” will also highlight places of historical importance to visit by tourists. The railways has been running several pairs of tourist special trains to cater to the needs of tourists both from abroad and the country. “In fact, the railways has already declared development of tourism in the country on priority basis. The new magazine is likely to provide a variety of interesting stories about the railways at the country level,” the board official said.

Published in: on March 19, 2011 at 3:16 pm  Comments (1)  
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New rail device in chennai gets green signal

In a first-of-its-kind initiative in Indian railway, the Chennai division of
Southern Zone launched new technology to prevent failure of the signaling
system, a major problem that has been defying a solution for years.

Named ˜Failure Communication System (FCS), it is based on mobile
communication technology which automatically generates SMSes to alert officials of the
signaling department on signal snags.

Talking to Deccan Chronicle, S Anantharaman, Chennai divisional railway manager
(DRM), said the system developed by technicians of signaling department has
been installed at Mundiampakkam and Basin Bridge stations and the trial runs
are showing positive results.

A reliable power supply is the backbone of the signaling system and its
failure would lead to point failures, route holdings, which in turn would
result in detention of trains. When the power fails at a signal, the inbuilt
battery supplies the power, but there are instances when loss of power goes
unnoticed till the battery runs out. Thus in most instances the snag comes to
the notice of signaling staff too late, he said.

He pointed out instances at Melmaruvathur on February 20, and very recently on
March 7 when several trains, both Express and suburban, lost time after signals
According to Anantharaman the FCS with its foolproof system having its own
battery backup of 100 hours would end such issues once it is made available at
all stations.

FCS is provided with a mobile sim card, which soon after sensing loss of
power in the circuit, sends SMS to pre-programmed mobile numbers of technicians and
officials of signaling and telecommunication department. Before the battery
power gets drained, officials are alerted and technicians can attend and solve
the problem, he said.

Published in: on March 12, 2011 at 5:37 pm  Leave a Comment  

CR runs 1.4-km train, country’s longest

The Central Railway (CR) has achieved a unique feat. From January, it has been running the country’s longest freight train.

While the 118-coach-long behemoth is not a technological marvel (it has been put together simply by joining two regular freight trains), running it poses technical challenges. There are issues like driver-guard communication, and starting and braking the train at the appropriate time. There are also operational problems related to tight curves, steep gradients and track crossings.

“Such a long freight train has been pressed into service because there is tremendous pressure from March to June to run extra passenger trains for accommodating the summer rush,” said V Malegaonkar, chief PRO, CR.

Though ‘freight train’ has been mentioned in the singular, it merely refers to the type of the train: 1,373-metre long with a trailing load of 9,000-10,000 tons, to be hauled by four electric engines (two in front and two in the middle). In reality, many such trains can be put together for any duration. In January and February, for example, CR ran 67 and 75 of the trains (or services), respectively.

Published in: on March 5, 2011 at 3:51 pm  Leave a Comment  

Soon, food courts, fast food joints at railway stations

The fare at local train stations is about to get better. Well, nothing to get scared about, since fare in this context does not mean ticket prices. It refers to food.

The Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) has announced plans to set up within six months 29 food plazas and five fast food units at railway stations including Andheri, Masjid, Kurla, Ghatkopar, Mulund, Wadala Road and Panvel. By March-end, a food court will be opened at Mumbai Central.

At a press conference on Friday, IRCTC officials also said that the corporation was diversifying and will have food plazas on highways, and at malls, offices and even clubs.

Tenders for 28 food plazas and 30 fast food units will soon be invited.

Virender Singh, group general manager, IRCTC, west zone, said at the conference that the first Bharat Tirth special tourist train, which would pick passengers from Maharashtra, will start on March 3 from Pune. The Mumbai pickup point is Kalyan.

The trains are an upgraded version of the Bharat Darshan trains and will have a deluxe component in the form of air-conditioned coaches. Each train will have 12 coaches, including seven sleeper class ones with a capacity of 70 each, and two III AC ones with a capacity of 64 each. The trip would cost Rs 5,650 per person for 10 nights and 11 days, the train passing through Ujjain, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Bikaner, Vashnodevi and Pushkar. The fare includes the cost of meals.

The IRCTC is also examining the feasibility of running steam engines in the Neral-Matheran section.

It already runs package tours in the tourist destination. They have also set up kiosks at CST and Mumbai Central where facilitators help users with information on IRCTC like packages.

“There were suggestions to start a train with comforts as the Bharat Darshan is a budgeted trip where passengers stay in Daramshalas,” he said. In 2009-10 IRCTC ran 16 Bharat Darshan trips which grew to 17 till January this fiscal.

Singh also spoke about starting Mumbai Darshans via road. This he said would have an itenary which even a local would like to explore. “The cost of the day trip by an ac bus would be lesser than Rs 500. Right now the modalities are being worked out- where we would buy the bus or rent one- but we are looking at destinations like Elephanta caves, Hanging gardens, Essel world, pagodas etc,” he said. Initially they are looking at having these trips on the weekends and then look at the response.

Published in: on March 5, 2011 at 3:49 pm  Leave a Comment  
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CR to roll out its retrofitted local soon

The Central Railway (CR) will introduce its first retrofitted local train in a day or two. The rake is undergoing test runs at present.

Painted the same colour as the new generation Siemen’s rake, the unit as been converted by the CR engineers to run on direct current (DC) as well as alternating current (AC).

”You won’t be able to differentiate between the retrofitted locals and the new age rakes as everything, right from the under frame to the stainless steel partitions, flooring, will be the same,” a CR official said.

If the rakes were not redone then they would have to be scrapped as the CR is switching from DC to AC traction. The total cost is between two to three crore. The work was carried out at the Kurla EMU car shed. ”The major work was changing the transformer and rectifier circuits,” an official said.

CR’s chief PRO V A Malegaonkar said that they would every month roll out one retrofitted rake.

The Western Railway (WR) introduced its first retrofitted local in 2002. At present they have eight to ten such trains.

In a day or two, Central Railway (CR) will introduce its first

local train on its mainline. The rake is under going test runs presently. Retrofitment means that a train which runs on direct current will be made ac-dc traction compatible. Its interiors will also be revamped to match the new age locals. A fresh coat of paint to resemble the new Siemens-MRVC locals is also a part of the plan.

“You won’t be able to differentiate the retrofitted locals from the new age rakes as everything right from the under frame to the stainless steel partitions, electrics, grab handles and flooring would be changes,” said a CR official. On Western Railway, the first retrofitted local was introduced in 2002. Presently they have 8-10 such trains.

CR has a sanction to redo 10 nine-car trains. “The first unit (3 coaches) was ready in December while the next two units were ready by February end. The first train took a little longer but it proved that we could get the work done in-house,” he said.

If the rakes were not redone they would be have to be scrapped as CR is switching from dc to ac traction. The total cost of giving the face-lift to each rake is between two and three crores and adds 15 years to the rake life.

Rake which are relatively younger and are around 10-15 years old are chosen. “The major work involved is changing the transformer and the rectifier circuits. This was carried out at Kurla carshed and the design was in-house,” said the official.

Chief PRO, V A Malegaonkar told TOI that retrofitted rakes will now roll out at a rate of one per month.

The retrofitted rakes would be pumped into CRs mainline. With an internal deadline to convert all rake on the mainline to 12-car by August, these re-done trains would also be augmented.

Published in: on March 5, 2011 at 3:47 pm  Leave a Comment  

CR to bring 120-wagon goods train

Maruti’ would soon be running on railway tracks. No not Hanuman, but a 120-wagon goods train that the Central Railway (CR) is planning to introduce soon. These trains would operate beyond Mumbai (in Bhusawal section) but are being run to ensure smooth operations of ‘summer special’ trains.

Many of these summer special trains start from the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus and Kurla-Lokmanya Tilak Terminus.

When two trains are clubbed, the total number of wagons becomes 115-120 that are towed. These long serpentine goods train would take around a minute or so to pass an average 700-odd metre long platforms, if it is running at its average speed.

These newly proposed trains, however, have issues such as communication between driver-guard, while applying brakes to the train maneuvering curves, gradients and track crossings.

These trains can carry a load of around 10,000 tonnes and are inter-connected by four engines. In January and February, for example, CR ran 67 and 75 of the trains (or services), respectively.

The CR is currently running around 1,516 special trains, including Nagpur-Hatia, Sainagar, Shirdi, Bhubaneshwar-Hazrat Nizamuddin.

These summer specials run from March to June. But these trains get stuck not only due to the regular outstation trains starting from the CST and Kurla LTT, but also from the long slow-moving goods trains.

“Beyond Mumbai, the goods trains don’t move beyond a speed of 50kmph while a regular freight train runs at around 75 kmph. So we have decided to club two goods trains with engines in order to save time and provide pathway for long-distance trains,” said V Malegaonkar, chief PRO of Central Railway.

Officials said that this method would also ensure availability of drivers for running long-distance trains. Generally, they face problem of drivers for running these long-distance trains, especially with more number of trains added to their schedule. Everyday more than 100 long-distance trains arrive and depart at CST and Kurla LTT stations.

Speed trials of Central Railway millennium train

The Central Railway on Friday successfully took speed trails of their own version of the red and silver nine-car ‘millennium rake’, to be put in passenger service in a day or two.

This is the first of the ten trains which have been converted using in-house expertise to be usedfor the city railway’s power upgrade project at a cost of Rs3 crore.

The railways have been converting the power network and supply of trains has been a problem.

That is when they decided to upgrade older trains to use on the new power mode.

The railways had been trying to retrofit the trains for the past few years and have now been successful.

“We shall roll out one nine-car train per month,” a senior official said.

“First, a unit of three coaches was completed and trials took place on January 17, after which we completed an entire train”, he added.

Stations to get high-end food plazas

If all goes as per plan, the travellers may soon be able to enjoy the services of high-end food plazas and fast food units (FFUs) at more than 31 suburban railway stations. The Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) has sent proposals to the Railway Board to setup the food plazas and FFUs for the entire western zone (of which Mumbai is part).

According to the IRCTC, the new FFUs are likely to be operational during 2011-2012. The FFUs aim to cater to the travellers willing to pay more for better quality cuisines.

Apart from the catering business, the IRCTC is also planning to expand it’s presence in the tourism segment. As a part of this strategy, it is planning to have special Mumbai Darshan trips with several new destinations, not frequented by travellers.

(With inputs by Akshay Deshmane)