Trains on WR’s fast corridor to move faster

Good news is in store for those who commute daily from Borivli to Mumbai Central and complain of even fast trains moving slowly. Thanks to technical improvements carried out by the Western Railway on this stretch, trains on the fast corridor will now move at the desired speed of 100kmph, especially during night and non-peak hours.

These alterations have been carried out near Malad, Jogeshwari, Andheri, Vile Parle, Mahim and Lower Parel.

The vital technical changes which have been carried out include removal of crossings used by trains for going from one track to the other on curves and turnings, marginally raising the height of a track at selected areas in a way that it would bend and help the train move faster by keeping the length of track as straight as possible.

Officials claim these technical improvements will surely lead to smoother operation of trains. “We have modified tracks at these stretches that will allow trains to run faster,” said S Chandrayan, chief PRO, Western Railway.

Currently, trains on this stretch move at a speed of 80-85kmph and at certain locations, at 90kmph. However, these changes will help trains to run faster and achieving 100kmph at night will be much easier when the change in signal indications doesn’t happen at regular intervals and there are more gaps between two trains.

Also, the completion of power conversion from 1,500-Volt DC to 25,000-Volt AC on the Borivli-Churchgate stretch would also considerably amplify the speeds of trains between these two stations. The initial deadline was June and WR is now looking at completing the conversion by September.

Published in: on August 28, 2011 at 5:21 am  Leave a Comment  
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Zonal Railways to upgrade retiring rooms through PPP mode

Ministry of Railways has issued instructions to the Zonal Railways to upgrade the retiring rooms including dormitories under Renovation/Rehabilitation, Operation and Transfer (ROT) Scheme through Public Private Partnership (PPP). This information was provided by KH Muniyappa, Minister of State for Railways in Lok Sabha recently.

According to a PIB release, under the scheme, the contract allottees are to renovate the existing retiring rooms and dormitories, or construct new ones as the case may be, operate it for a fixed period as per agreement and transfer it to the Railways after completion of the agreement.

Changing role of IRCTC

In India, most of us have grown up to the concept that anything that is Government-owned or Government-run leaves a lot to be desired. We have it ingrained into our psyche that Government heritage, projects and initiatives will be unkempt, scam-ridden and occasionally, even defunct. It is in this backdrop that state-owned or backed endeavours like Delhi Metro and IRCTC come as a whiff of fresh air.

The Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation Limited (IRCTC) is not just India’s but also Asia Pacific’s largest e-commerce portal. And this is not a mere squat; IRCTC has been firmly perched at the top for the past many years. When it was launched in 2002, the Railways’ online ticketing portal saw just 27 tickets booked on day 1 and 3,343 tickets in the first month. Today, with 8.4 million visitors in April 2011, IRCTC comprises 45% of all visitors to travel websites in India and 19% of total Internet audience.

Factors that contributed to the success of IRCTC

The IRCTC success story is undoubtedly an inspiration for the entire generation of e-commerce portals in India. However, behind this success story is a firmed up business plan as well as a near flawless execution till the recent past. Here are some of the reasons why IRCTC became a darling of train travellers in India.

Cheap and convenient – Online booking was a revolutionary concept back in 2002. People in not just tier 2 and 3 towns but also in metros like Delhi and Mumbai were in for the shock of their lives to see tickets neatly tucked in Overnight Express envelopes for a ridiculously low service charge. At Rs. 8/- per person for a booking of a family of 5, even the relatively lower classes did not mind paying for the convenience of tickets being delivered at the doorstep.

Quick and efficient last mile connectivity – It is notable to add that IRCTC’s policy of awarding the delivery contract to only one courier company has been a masterstroke. It gives more control to IRCTC over delivery, with just a single channel of communication to take care of. The delivery happens within 24 hours in Delhi and Mumbai where tickets are printed. For other parts of the country, the upper limit is three days!

Easy to navigate web interface – The website lays down all possible options, allows one to customize his or her train options based on start and end stations, desired dates, routes and possible fare classes. The interface also allows one to keep a record of all past bookings, cancellations and upcoming trips. Arguably, the interface is not Apple-esque but it serves the purpose well. All this, without feeling like Alice in Wonderland at the ticket booking counters!

The success of IRCTC becomes doubly impactful when you consider that it is the marketing arm of Indian Railways – the world’s largest employer that also transports a mind-boggling 6 billion passengers annually! To provide a simple, easy to use interface that can support 35,000+ unique visitors during peak hours and ensuring that every single ticket reaches the consumer in remote locations across the country is no mean feat. Add to it, the highly secure payment gateways (the site is VeriSign certified) with more than ten options of using credit and debit cards, and you have a safe, hassle-free platform.

The future, however, may not be as rosy for IRCTC. It is besotted with a plethora of crippling problems arising, ironically, because of what was its very strength – a large captive base!

The website, in its current state, will soon become ill-equipped to handle 16 million users who book about 9 million tickets every month online. About 40% of these are booked during the morning hours (8 AM IST to 10 AM IST approx).

As a result, in Jan 2011 alone, there were more than 2.9 million failed transactions translating to a humungous 25% fail rate. To add to the woes, failed login attempts and other request failures only goes to show that something is really amiss here!

Announcing the Railways budget 2011, Railways Minister Mamata Banerjee launched a portal for e-ticketing from the Centre for Railway Information Systems (CRIS). The decision is primarily driven by IRCTC’s lack of support & infrastructure failure. This probably explains why IRCTC forayed into air travel booking – it was trying to hedge its risk!

This is the second major blow to IRCTC in two successive years. In Railways Budget 2010, a catering contract was taken away from IRCTC. A recent comment from the MD, Rakesh Tandon sums it all: “This year will be a tough year. Catering and e-ticketing have been our main source of income. With a catering business worth Rs 300 crore gone, we are already feeling the pinch. Now, the new portal will cut our share in ticketing too”

IRCTC, over the years, has been receiving several complaints of malpractices. As a result, it recently deactivated IDs of 1.4 million users suspected to be indulging in such practices. Rail tickets are always in high demand but they’re hardly available because of corporate bookings and a nexus between agents and fringe employees. To counter this systemic problem IRCTC has now barred authorized agents from booking e-tickets. Additionally, these agents have also been banned from purchasing Tatkal tickets before the first 1 hour (8AM – 9AM) to give fair chance to the general public. It has licensed 100 principal agents in India who in turn, appointed sub agents working as authorised ticket agents.


Problems notwithstanding, IRCTC is the unquestionable showpiece of the Indian Railways. It has the absolute potential to overcome all of its problems and continue to dominate the online booking space. With additions such as flight, hotel and cab booking as well as booking packages, IRCTC may well become a competitor to the more established travel portals like Cleartrip, Makemytrip, Yatra, Meru and Easycab soon. However, this being a different segment, IRCTC will definitely need to significantly up its interface and usability to break into this slightly more elite market. Moreover, it needs to realize one thing: air, hotel and cab bookings are only ancillary revenue categories. It does not have any USP there. Its core competency is, and will remain, train booking.

IRCTC to set up Tourism Facilitation Centres in Bihar

The Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) has decided to set up a tourism facilitation centre with the help of Indian Railways in Patna and other districts of Bihar. According to a report in The Telegraph, the facility will debut within a month.

The decision has been taken to popularise the railways’ facilities for tourists and common passengers. Each district will have 10 tourism facilitation centres. Tourists and common passengers will now have more information on hand once the first-of-its-kind venture starts operating near railway stations and different parts of the city.

“The centres will cater to passengers and common people. Now, passengers will no longer need to depend on travel agencies for booking railway and airline tickets. The travel agencies always charge Rs 20 to Rs 30 extra but at the tourism facilitation centres, passengers will not need to pay any extra money. The service will be provided free of cost,” said Anand Kumar Jha, Regional Manager – Patna , IRCTC. He added, “These Centres will also generate employment opportunities for youths who want to pursue a career in the tourism industry. Each centre will have five young employees who would provide the service to tourists and passengers.”

The facilities will include booking railway tour packages, holiday packages, car rentals, booking special trains and coaches, booking Bharat Darshan package and air tickets, all free of charge. Each district will have 10 tourism facilitation centres with one near the main railway station. In Patna, for instance, one tourism facilitation centre would be near Patna Junction, while the others would be situated at important spots like Kankerbagh, Patna City, Rajendra Nagar, Rajabazar, Boring Road and Patliputra. Jha said, “These centres will provide a range of facilities to make Bihar one of the most tourist-friendly states in India.”

Deepak Chhabra, Chief Commercial Manager, East Central Railway said, “The centres will be equipped with all kinds of information related to tourism, as we have seen tourists eager to know about festivals in the state like Rajgir Mahotsava and other government programmes. Tourist destinations like Bodhgaya, Pawapuri, Nalanda and Rajgir are hotspots for foreign tourists. These centres will help tourists find out about trains and routes to their destinations.”

Jha added, “We will train the employees who will deliver the service to the passengers and tourists. They will be trained in tourism, how to issue tickets and interact with the people who come to seek the service. The idea is to make Indian Railways more popular than ever. Within a month, the tourism facilitation centres will be set up at various locations in Patna and other districts of the state.”

ICF to roll out stainless steel coaches

The premiere production unit of Indian Railways, the Integral Coach Factory (ICF) at Perambur in Chennai, has been sanctioned a project for manufacturing stainless steel coaches for the first time in the country. According to Vijay P Meshram, Controller of Stores, ICF, stainless steel coaches are less in weight when compared to the present mild steel bogies. Pointing out that the new technology would augment for high-speed bogies, he said that the life span of stainless steel coaches was higher than that of the mild steel bogies by 10 years.

Addressing a gathering during the Independence Day celebrations at ICF on Monday, Meshram said in the previous year, ICF had churned out 1,503 coaches, which was an all-time record production. A total number of 43,551 coaches had been produced till July 2011 by ICF since its inception, Vijay P Meshram informed.

He said, “ICF has been sanctioned a project of Rs 250 crore for manufacturing technologically upgraded coaches of stainless steel shells and high speed bogies and an increase in capacity from 1,500 to 1,700 coaches.” The new bogie facilities and shell manufacturing facilities are likely to be completed by March and August 2013 respectively, he added.

Meshram also said that 4.6 crore units of electricity had been generated through the windmills installed by ICF in Tirunelveli district till the end of May 2011.

In the financial year 2010-11, ICF had generated two crore units of electricity and met 80 per cent of its electrical energy requirements from green energy.

Published in: on August 18, 2011 at 4:50 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Indian Railways modernisation to cost over Rs 14 lakh cr in 10 yrs: Assocham

Modernisation of the Indian Railways is likely to cost more than Rs 14 lakh crore over the next 10 years, an industry body has said.

“Indian Railways requires modernisation which would cost more than Rs 14 lakh crore over the next ten years, so that it could have an extensive network to cover the entire country,” Assocham said.

Besides, there should be an emphasis on developing entrepreneurial and managerial skills, it said.

Indian Railways, which is the third largest rail network in the world, employs 14 lakh employees, it added.

“The rail lines measure up to 64,015 kilometres, up from 53,596 kilometres in 1947,” Assocham said.

The chamber said that there was a need to increase the government spending on rail network in the country.

Both developed and developing countries are spending hundreds of billion of dollars each year to add more rail lines. China is spending $ 300 billion (about Rs 14 lakh crore) over the next three years to expand and modernise its rail network, the chamber said.

Published in: on August 18, 2011 at 4:48 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Metro smart cards to stay valid for a year

Metro Railway has decided to make smart cards issued from Friday valid for a year.

The move, the authorities hope, will make the smart cards more popular and decrease the pressure on ticket counters and flap gates, which had been causing snaking queues at stations.

So far, the smart cards were valid for a period of 30 days to 150 days, depending on the amount with which these were recharged.

Since the new radio frequency identification system was introduced on July 8, The Telegraph has been highlighting the need to increase the validity of smart cards.

Metro commuters who have already purchased smart cards needn’t worry. Their cards will be valid for a year from the next time they are recharged.

Till Tuesday, 1,58,000 of the new smart cards have been issued.

The move could also benefit infrequent commuters and those making one-way journeys on the Metro each day. It was these people, sources said, who were most hesitant in buying smart cards, preferring to queue up to buy tokens before each journey. The reason: they feared losing money once the validity of the smart cards expired.

“Our motto is to sell more smart cards, as that will solve all the problems we’ve been facing since introducing the new system,” said Protyush Ghosh, DGM (general), Metro Railway.

Nine more escalators will be installed — one each at Shyambazar, Sovabazar-Sutanuti, Mahatma Gandhi Road, Esplanade and Park Street and two each at Maidan and Rabindra Sadan stations — by the end of this year.

Published in: on August 18, 2011 at 4:44 pm  Leave a Comment  

Ircon signs deal with Sri Lankan Railways for signalling system

Railway PSU Ircon has entered into an agreement with Sri Lankan Railways for installation of signalling and telecommunication system on the rail network in that country.

The project, to be executed in the northern province of Sri Lanka at a cost of USD 86.51 million will enhance safety at level crossings and provide GPS-based station clock system, and public address system etc. at major stations, the PSU said a statement.
The work will cover the entire section in Anuradhapura – Kankesanturai and Medawachchiya -Tallai Mannar Sections covering a length of 313 kms and 28 stations.

An MoU was signed in this regard in Colombo yesterday between GM of Sri Lanka Railways B A P Ariyarathna and MD of Ircon Mohan Tiwari.

Signalling work will involve provision of centralised control panel, interlocking colour light signal with electrically operated points, and train detection system.

Ircon has earlier also executed railway projects in Sri Lanka, successfully completing the Galle-Matara Section of Coastal Railway Line in February, the statement said.

Published in: on August 18, 2011 at 4:43 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Indian Railways to go LNG way for savings

Railways has decided to gradually opt for liquefied natural gas on a large scale as part of its effort to reduce diesel consumption, green house gas emissions and ensure major operational savings.

The Indian Railways and the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) have signed a MoU to explore the potential of LNG in a substantial manner in locomotives, factories and workshops.

“The induction of LNG in railways is likely to be in a phase-wise manner. We will begin with industrial uses in factories to usage in diesel multiple units and then in mainline diesel locomotives,” a senior Railway Ministry official said.

Railways is currently dependent on refined petroleum products such as high speed diesel for locomotives and furnace oil in workshops and factories. At the moment, the transport behemoth uses approximately 250 crore litre of high speed diesel for locomotives annually.

Published in: on August 18, 2011 at 4:40 pm  Leave a Comment  
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How tech changed face of rly indicators

Since the slate-and chalk era, indicators on platforms of Western Railway stations have gone through a series of evolution till it arrived at the hi-tech LCD age.

The new generation indicators, meant to show passengers the details of an arriving train, not only have a sleek look but are also big power-savers. Though they are not inexpensive—a single-line indicator costs Rs 1.35 lakh and a multi-line one Rs 2 lakh—officials feel that the change will be better, as the new technology provides flexibility in displaying information and the texts can be read from afar.

Chief PRO of WR Sharat Chandrayan said, “We have installed LCD-based multiline indicators at Bandra and Dadar. They are on trial run and once it prove to be successful, we will take them to other stations.”

With evolving technology, indicators have also kept pace over the time. Chandrayan said, “At the beginning, when there were only a few trains, the railways made use of chalk-and-board to inform commuters about the arrival and departure times.”

As the network expanded and number of services went up, the authorities brought in “painted boards”. “They were operated manually and a person was deployed to change the wooden panels that showed the destinations and timings,” Chandrayan said. “This cumbersome process and was dependent on the availability of manpower.”

The painted boards stayed till 1986, when it made way to ‘bulb’ indicators. “A signboard with bulbs where introduced in 1986. Texts written in small electric bulbs showed the destinations and the stations where they will not stop. It worked on the mechanism of manualswitch operation.” A few years later,computer made its advent and the previous system was upgraded to Micro Processorbased technology. “The new boards also showed whether a train was fast or slow. They were linked to the Train Management System,” he said.

In 2003, these indicators were replaced with their LED counterparts. Initially, there was one main indicator (multi-line double face) showing all the information of a train like its destination, mode and the stations it will not halt at. Besides, there were pilot indicators showing destination code, time, mode and the time within which the train was expected. Unlike the new LCD boards, the LEDs have poor resolution and the texts are a bit blurred though visibility is much better than earlier systems. Chandrayan said, “LCD boards provide better flexibility in displaying information and the visibility is clearer owing to the brightness and contrast.”

Keeping Pace With Time

SLATE-&-CHALK | In the initial days of railways, a slate used to be put up at a station and officials would write train timings on it with a chalk
PAINTED BOARD | The wooden indicators resembled the old score boards in a cricket stadium. From time to time, an employee would manually change the painted panels of digits and alphabets, showing the train timings and destinations
BULB INDICATORS | Introduced in 1986, the indicators worked on manual switch operation technology. They showed destinations and the stations a train would not halt at
MICRO-PROCESSOR | The computer-enabled system was connected with the Train Management System. The new indicators provided commuters with basic details, besides the time within which a train would arrive and whether it was a slow or a fast local
LED INDICATORS | LED-based indicators are superior in quality and provid good visibility LCD INDICATORS | These stateof-the art indicators have high resolution and better picture quality that ensure clearer visibility

Published in: on August 18, 2011 at 4:38 pm  Leave a Comment  
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