Golden Rock Workshop takes e-auction route to sell scrap

In a bid to ensure transparency, the Stores Department of the Golden Rock Railway Workshop here has introduced an e-auction system for selling railway scrap materials.

The new system provides a common platform for scrap purchasers all over the country to offer their bids online in a fair and transparent manner.

A valid class III digital signature certificate; payment of online registration fee of Rs.10,000 and payment of 10 per cent of the bid lot; possession of SBI account with online banking facility are among the prerequisites laid down for the buyers for taking part in the bidding process under the e-auction system.

E- auction has been hosted in the e-procurement site and is maintained by the Centre for Railway Information Systems. The new system provides user name and password for the registered purchasers who can log on to the site and make their bidding. It also provides for e-payment gateway for online payment of Earnest Money Deposit.

The new system will ensure better competition and reduce scope for cartelisation, say workshop authorities. It would fetch more revenue for the railways as the competition would be wide open and simplify work for the officials. For the purchasers, the system would ensure transparency as the bidder can view the amount quoted by his competitor. The traditional system of auctioning would continue till such period the new system is well established, authorities said. Auction of scrap materials takes place once or twice every month in the workshop, a senior official said adding that the workshop had been selling scrap materials to the tune of Rs.120.50 crore per annum.

Engine blocks, plate off-cuts, used brake blocks, released cylinder liners, bazaar scrap and over-aged rails and sleepers are the scrap materials sold time to time by the workshop.

The first e-auction conducted on Friday fetched Rs.27.54 lakh for the workshop which is engaged in myriad activities including periodic overhaul of diesel locomotives and manufacture of container wagons and steam engines.

The new system was inaugurated by the Controller of Stores, Southern Railway, B.K.Sinha in the presence of Chief Workshop Manager P.Mahesh and senior officials.

More comfortable journeys on double-decker train in the offing

More comfortable journey for passengers travelling on the new coaches of double- decker train is in the offing as many changes have been incorporated in them, including the number of seats that have been reduced to 120 from 128 after their redesigning at Rail Coach Factory here.

Several crucial changes have been made by RCF engineers based on the feedback received from passengers and railway officials who travelled on the first double-decker train operating between Howrah and Dhanbad stations since October 2011.

Senior RCF PRO Virender Kumar Vij said that 17 newly-designed coaches were rolled out from the factory on March 31 and had undergone field trials on the Delhi-Jaipur track.

“Basically, we have reduced the width of coaches by 80mms as there was some operational problem with the previous coaches as platforms were extended at some stations due to repair or other reasons. By reducing the coach width, this problem has been sorted out,” he said claiming that “this is the optimised standard design prepared by RCF officials”.

Apart from reduction in the number of seats, reclining chairs have been installed. Also, half of the seats would now be in one direction and others in opposite direction, with a snack table in the centre, added Vij.

Interiors of the coaches have been worked upon to improve aesthetic aspect.

Another rake is ready to be rolled out in the first week of June to be run between Mumbai and Ahmedabad. By the end of this year, two more rakes for Southern Railway (Chennai to Bangalore) and for West Central Railway (Habibganj to Indore) would be rolled out from RCF, he added.

“Senior railways officials are highly impressed with the newly designed coaches and it is expected that these coaches will replace the existing Shatabdi coaches all over the country in the near future,” he said.

Published in: on May 26, 2012 at 9:57 am  Leave a Comment  

Now, enjoy meals on toy trains

With the scorching heat taking a toll on people in the plains, a visit to Darjeeling might be a good idea. And when in the Hills, one cannot miss out a ride on the toy train. To make the ride even more convenient for travellers, soon food will be served during the journey. Besides, restaurants will also come up at four prominent stations — Kurseong, Sonada, Ghoom and Darjeeling.

The state tourism department is tying up with the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation Limited (IRCTC) to set up four “glass house restaurants” at these four stations.

According to the state tourism secretary Raghvendra Singh, “We are tying up with IRCTC for these restaurants to be set up at the stations so that people who wait at the stations can have lovely meals as well as get a view of the hills.”

Stations will, however, not be the only ones to benefit from this tie-up. Despite the various drawbacks of the hills which include political tension, problems of drinking water and ill-maintained railway stations, the toy trains are a major attraction of the Hills. Such is its demand among tourists, that during summers one has to book a seat well in advance. To give the joy rides a further boost, meals will be served on the toy trains. The tie-up will prove to be extremely beneficial for toy trains as well, felt officials.

There are three trains that ply in the Hills. While one plies between Darjeeling and Ghoom and one between Kurseong and Darjeeling, another plies between Siliguri and Rangtong. Though there are 17 stations in the toytrain route, Kurseong, Sonada, Ghoom and Darjeeling are the most prominent ones and hence setting up restaurants here will attract a large number of visitors.

The plan is being discussed currently between the two departments, so it will take some time to be set up and cannot be expected this summer, said an official. “It is well on track,” he added.
Such initiatives will woo tourism but what the stations primarily need are regular cleaning and maintenance, felt people of the Hills.

According to a senior official of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, work has already started inside the trains which will make them look prettier.

The toy train on the Darjeeling Himalayan section connects Darjeeling with Siliguri. However, the entire section is not active at the moment, and the most commonly taken route is from Darjeeling to Ghoom, the others being Darjeeling to Kurseong and Siliguri to Rangtong. The Batasia loop that gives a panoramic view of Darjeeling is a pleasant halt and has a memorial of Gorkha soldiers of the Indian Army who had sacrificed their lives after Independence.

General bogies of Trains to be equipped with CCTVs in Madhya Pradesh

Passengers travelling in trains in Madhya Pradesh have a reason to cheer, as the railway authorities have decided to install CCTV cameras which will provide security to them.

In this regard, Government Railway police (GRP) will seek the help of the state police from bordering states in-order to provide security to the train passengers.

Decision in this regard was taken in a meeting of Railway officials which was held at the zonal Railway office, Bhopal.

Videography of general bogies will also be done on the lines of AC coaches.

Published in: on May 26, 2012 at 9:46 am  Leave a Comment  
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E-ticket cancellations fetch railways Rs 750 crore

An integral part of a family holiday or business trip is proper planning, and most Indian travellers usually book their train tickets weeks, if not months, in advance. But the best laid plans can go awry and often do. The Indian Railways understands this principle well-it is what has, after all, enriched the government organization substantially over the years.

Between 2005 and 2011, the Railways earned a neat Rs 750 crore (almost equivalent to its annual profit) on account of cancellations of e-tickets alone. (Its earnings from e-tickets from 2005 to April 2012 were Rs 30,094 crore.) RTI activist Manoranjan Roy, who procured this information, says that the railways must do away with cancellation charges. “Indian Railways now has several avenues for generating revenue,” he points out. “It must stop burdening the common man with cancellation charges.”

In 2011, between March and December, the railways earned Rs 198 crore from cancellation charges of e-tickets. Ever since it began in 2005, e-ticketing has ballooned to make up about 40% of all rail ticket sales. Railway officials say that the convenience that booking and cancelling an e-ticket offers has seen more passengers making advance bookings that very often result in cancellations. In fact, one out of every three e-tickets sold is cancelled.

If a confirmed ticket is cancelled more than 24 hours before the scheduled departure of the train, the penalty is Rs 70 for an AC first-class ticket, Rs 60 for AC Tier-2, AC Tier-3 and AC chair car, Rs 40 for sleeper class and Rs 20 for a second-class ticket. In fact, even if a wait-listed ticket is not confirmed, the Railways go on to deduct Rs 20 before refunding the remaining sum.

Popular trains have long waiting lists of 700 or 800. “Close to 95% of the wait-listed tickets do not get confirmed and automatically stand cancelled,” explains a rail officer. “Hence, what ordinarily happens is that most passengers book themselves on more than one train; others with flexible travel dates book tickets on different days if they are on the waiting list.”

Clearly, somebody’s attempts to stay on top of the chaotic train travel in India can be somebody else’s huge gain.

E-way to big bucks

Year ——– Tickets sold (lakh) —— Ticket sale income (Rs crore)——- Revenue from cancellation charges (Rs crore)

2005-06 —-25 ———- 317 ——- 2.85

2006-07 —-68 ———- 678 ——- 5.79

2007-08 —- 189 ——- 1,700 —— 15.61

2008-09 —- 440 —— 3883 ——– 99.42

2009-10 —- 719 —— 6011 ——– 190.63

2010-11 —- 969 —— 8007 ——– 235.37

2011-12 —-1,161 —– 9498 ——– 198.80*

(* Cancellation figures up to December 2011)

More Mumbaikars shun vehicles, take to trains

With fuel prices steadily shooting up, especially in the past two years, more and more Mumbaikars seem to leave their cars behind home and opt for trains for their daily commute.

“In 2010-11 and 2011-12 , the number of Western Railway commuters has increased by 3% annually , while earlier, the yearly rise used to be by 2.3%. The steep hike in fuel prices, especially over the past two years, is playing a crucial role in the trend, with increasingly more people shunning their cars and taking trains,” a senior Western Railway official told TOI. He also attributes the never-ending snarls on roads as another reason, saying people would rather reach their destinations fast by train than swelter on roads, stuck in traffic jams.

The scene is similar even on Central Railway, which has recorded a 2.7% rise in the number of daily passengers in 2011-12 , a figure higher than that over the past fourfive years. “Earlier, the number of passengers on CR would go up by up to 2% every year,” a Central R ailway official said. The official attributes this rise to the new services and rakes recently launched by the railway, but at the same time, agrees that the fuel price increase does a play a vital role in more people opting for trains as a mode of transport.

Incidentally, ever since the petrol prices started to spiral up, the first round of Rs 48.76 per litre in 2009 and now Rs 78.58 per litre, the number of vehicles on roads has also been going up by 12%; earlier the figure used to be an average of 7-8 %, the data with regional transport suggests. The increase of vehicles on road translates into snarls on roads, which in turn, has been forcing people to shun roads and take trains, a traffic analyst says. “I think, 10-15 % of train commuters use the mode of transport owing to these two reasons,” said analyst Sudhir Patil. “Fast AC bus and train services will change the scene even further. Now the administration should start dedicated bus lanes.”

Suggesting that the government should take more steps to further alleviate commuters’ travail, transport expert Jagdeep Desai said, “People need point-to-point fast AC bus services. To help them reach their destinations according to their convenience and within time, the administration must increase the frequency in services and chalk out routes that pass through better commuter-density areas. Unfortunately , the sector is unorganized and haphazard.

Published in: on May 26, 2012 at 9:41 am  Leave a Comment  

Soon, 1,000 ATVMs at CR stations

In the next three months Central Railway (CR) officials plan to install 1,000 automatic ticket vending machines (ATVMs) on stations.
The Railway Board has asked CR and Western Railway to prepare a plan for phasing out coupon validating machines by March 2013. Both the railways will have to increase ATVMs to ensure that commuters are not inconvenienced during the switchover.
“Around 1,000 ATVMs will be procured within three to four months,” a senior CR official said. “Our aim is to reduce the waiting period to purchase tickets. There are 225 ATVMs across 76 CR stations. Of which, some will have to be phased out as they have become unfit,” the official added.Thecostof a single ATVM is estimated to be around Rs 1to 1.25 lakh.
On an average, ATVMs and the unreserved ticketing system (UTS) booking windows dispense two lakh and eight lakh tickets daily.
CR has already made it mandatory for passengers to lineup at the booking officeto buy CVM booklets. As a result, their sale has dropped. “As compared to 92 lakh booklets sold in April 2011, only 59 lakh were sold in the corresponding periodthis year,” an official said.

CR bans sale of all food items wrapped in plastic at stations

You may soon find that your favourite biscuits, chips or chocolates are no longer available at many suburban railway stations.

The Central Railway has banned all stalls on suburban stations from selling food items wrapped in plastic, with immediate effect. This means most commonly-sold branded chips, chocolates and biscuits, will be taken off the shelves in these stalls. In case of locally made items, such as samosas or sandwiches, vendors will have to ensure that the food is not wrapped in plastic.

The ban has been imposed on all CR stations in Mumbai division’s suburban section. In major stations such as the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, parts of the station catering to outstation trains will be excluded from the ban.

The CR administration recently served notices to catering stalls on suburban stations. “Two days ago, we received a notice from the CR, asking us to stop sale food items wrapped in plastic,” said a catering stall manager at CST.

Sources said this move has been taken to reduce plastic waste and avoid choking of drains near railway stations and tracks, during the monsoon. Every year, suburban services are disrupted after drains get choked and overflow in the monsoons, because of littering and irresponsible disposal of plastic waste. “Plastic wrappers are non-biodegradable and cause environment hazards,” said the CR notice to stall managers.

“This move is not only environment-friendly, but will also help reduce littering. As wrappers and plastic waste won’t be strewn on platforms and tracks, surroundings will be cleaner, and look better,” said V Malegaokar, Chief PRO, CR. However, CR does not plan to take action against those who buy plastic-wrapped items from outside and continue to litter on railway premises. “It will not be practical to take action,” said Subodh Jain, general manager, CR.

The move has not gone down well with stall owners. “If affects our business, we lose half our sales,” said Shivkumar Singh, manager of Sai Sagar Fast Food Stall at CST. Some passengers, too, have been caught off guard“I wanted to buy biscuits for my daughter before our journey, but no stall was selling it,” said Pradeep Rao, Vikhroli resident.

WR saves 4 cr every month after AC switch

The switchover to the alternating current (AC) from the direct current (DC) system on Western Railway added an extra Rs 4 crore to its kitty last month.

The savings are also because the AC system is more energy efficient and the transmission and distribution losses are less compared to the DC format. The WR runs 1,250 suburban services. The savings are substantial although the number of services has increased from 1,210 in December 2011.
“In 2011-12, WR was able to save Rs 53 crore after the conversion to the AC system,” said Sharat Chandrayan, WR’s chief public relations officer.

“The savings are bound to be substantial even though there may be an increase in services on WR’s suburban system in the future,” he added. WR has 77 AC-DC compatible rakes on its network.

WR has also registered the project with the United Nations Framework Convention on climate change. “Each rake has the potential to earn 35,000 units of carbon credits. It is estimated that these rakes will reduce overall carbon emissions,” he said. After the Mumbai division switched to the AC system this year, three phase locomotives with regenerative-brakes, which have the potential to save 15 to 17 % energy, have been introduced.

Super Saver

• Savings : 4cr in April

• AC-DC rakes on WR : 77

• Energy savings : 30%

•Savings (2011-12) : 53cr

The train to Royapuram

Like every other modern institution in India, railways too originated in Madras, in the sense that the Madras Railway Company was formed way back in 1845, when the first-ever train ride in India, from Bombay to Thane, had not even been thought of. But the Great Indian Peninsula Company, set up much later, beat Madras by opening the Bombay-Thane line in 1853. Since the original structures of Bombay and Thane stations no longer exist, Royapuram station, declared open in 1856, is today the oldest railway station in the entire subcontinent.

Captain (Barnett) Fort’s sketch depicting its inauguration shows a large crowd of elegantly-attired Europeans gathered on the low-lying platform of the station. The eagerness to board the train is palpable. The platform looks strikingly grand because of its Corinthian pillars. From above the tall pillars hang large flags that add to the regal air. Two tracks run in front of the platform: a train waiting on each of them. The train farther from the platform, carrying the natives, already has the steam-spewing locomotive attached to it. They are witnessing the inauguration ceremony from the train; while the Europeans, gathered on the platform, are part of the ceremony.

This afternoon, however, Murali and I find neither the crowds nor any train as we drive into the Royapuram station, which is now painted in deep red and its Corinthian pillars in white. Murali parks the car right under the porch of the historic station, as if he owns the place. No one stops us: there is hardly a soul around anyway. In the hall described in The Illustrated London News as ‘very elegant and most superbly furnished with handsome punkahs & c.’, a couple of dogs are sleeping.

Given Chennai’s notorious neglect of its heritage, Royapuram station had nearly gone to the dogs. When I saw it outside during my first trip to north Chennai with Murali, it was a crumbling building, left to fall on its own. But good sense eventually prevailed upon the railways which restored the station in 2005.

In the hall, there are pictures of the station before and after restoration. Inside the ticket window, a lone clerk is marking time. The train services may have increased since the restoration, but this does not seem to be a busy station, even though it was Madras’s main railway terminus until 1907. All I can hear is the chirping of birds.

Standing on the main platform, I try to visualise the scene of the station’s inauguration in 1856. The few Corinthian pillars that remain unmistakably belong to Captain Fort’s sketch. So it was here that the journey of railways in south India began. A railway employee, who has been watching Murali and me looking around and taking pictures, comes over. He tells us that some of the old pillars had to be broken to facilitate electrification of the line, and that how it had been nearly impossible to bring them down—so strong they had been. He also tells us that the Burma teak furnishings in the hall were stolen during the restoration. Our conversation is cut short when a passenger train suddenly whizzes past, startling both Murali and me.

Since this platform has no shade and the sun is beating down mercilessly, we too get back to the hall and emerge on the platform on the other side of the building, which is shaded by what appears to be a fibreglass roof, red which has faded into patches of yellow. The slanting roof is held up by antique cantilevers. The platform is clean and empty and bears a historic look.

While Murali takes pictures, I sit on the lone wooden bench whose backrest has ‘M.S.M.R’ engraved on it. M.S.M.R stands for Madras and Southern Mahratta Railway, which came into being in 1908 following the merger of the Madras Railway Company and the Southern Mahratta Railway. The company had its headquarters in Royapuram until 1922, when it shifted to the Central station. The bench, therefore, is about a hundred years old. If only it could speak. It must have seated countless genteel Europeans and distinguished Indians, and countless vagabonds and rowdies in the dark decades before its restoration.

The harbour is in close view: I can see the cranes and containers. At some distance is the Royapuram bridge, which we had taken to get here; the sound of the traffic on it is now no louder than the buzzing of flies. Right in front of me are three pairs of rail tracks, covered in places by vegetation. A dog is sleeping close to my feet. If you want to spend a quiet day with a book, this bench is the place to be.

The door to the station master’s office is right next to the bench, and all this while, perhaps because of the silence, we’ve assumed that he must not be in. But he has been on his seat all along. He looks up from the paperwork and smiles nervously at us when we step in. He is puzzled that two strange men should be barging into his room and asking him questions related to his work. Murali, with his gift of the gab, puts him at ease by explaining to him, in Tamil, the purpose of our visit.

The station master tells us that at present, twenty-seven pairs of local trains pass through Royapuram station each day, apart from the occasional goods train; and that there is one train which still originates from Royapuram station—a goods train—and goes straight to Delhi.

As he talks, my eyes travel around his office. On the wall is a large diagram of the station, down to the minute detail which only a railway man can decipher. There are homilies too, in English, about the dangers of drinking and driving—a train, that is. In a corner of the room, on an antiquated table, lies an assortment of iron equipment related to rail tracks. To my untrained eye, most of the iron pieces appear to be fishplates. I also spot a piece of childhood fascination—the signalman’s lantern!

I lift it with great excitement and call out to Murali to take a look. The station master smiles at us. We are still examining the lantern when we hear a rattling sound on the tracks outside and soon find a goods train passing by. We rush out to the platform with the lantern. I hold it up pretending to be the signalman, with the moving train in the backdrop, as Murali takes pictures. Then we quickly exchange positions. We put the lantern back in place and thank the station master for his time.

Only much later, when we are back in the bustle of the traffic, does it strike me that I had forgotten to ask the station master something pertinent: how does it feel it to be presiding over the country’s oldest surviving railway station?

Bishwanath Ghosh’s Tamarind City: Where Modern India Began was launched in New Delhi on Friday.

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Published in: on May 26, 2012 at 9:29 am  Leave a Comment  
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