Trains to be fitted with bio-toilets

With Railways a “big headache” to efforts to make the country open defecation free, Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh today offered that his Ministry would bear half the cost of retrofitting eco-friendly bio-toilets in all 50000 coaches in five years.

The total cost for retrofitting bio-toilets in all coaches would be about Rs 500 crores.

Ramesh, who also holds the portfolio of Drinking Water and Sanitation, said that at present only nine trains with 436 coaches are fitted with bio-toilets, while 4,000 coaches are produced annually which could be fitted with new bio-toilets developed by Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO).

“…What I have offered to Railway Board Chairman is that we will bear 50 per cent cost of retrofitting each on the 50000 coaches with the DRDO biodigesters in 4 to 5 years time,” he told reporters here after meeting Railway Board Chairman Vinay Mittal and senior board officials at his Ministry today.

The Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation would bear its 50 per cent cost for retrofitting to provide Indian Railways, which ferries 11 million passengers daily, with hygenic sanitation.

During his meeting, Ramesh also asked the Railway Board officials to run a Nirmal Bharat Express, fitted with bio-toilets, which will go in various railwaylines to spread the message of sanitation and hygiene.

In these bio-toilets, the human waste is treated by bacteria which is benign to the humans. This bacteria converts human waste into water and gases (methane and CO2).

The gases escape into atmosphere and treated waste water is discharged after chlorination. Human waste, thus, does not fall on the tracks.

Railways have claimed that this system not only improves the environment and hygiene but also helps in preventing corrosion to coach and track components.

Speaking in the capital last month, Ramesh had said Railways was “another big headache for us” on the issue of ending manual scavenging and open defecation.

The Rural Development Ministry has launched a campaign to end open defecation in 10 years.

Published in: on July 28, 2012 at 7:01 am  Leave a Comment  
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IRCTC launches special tour packages

Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) on Wednesday announced two special tour packages — Dakshin Darshan covering Goa and south India and Uttar Darshan covering tourists distinations in north India.

“Both the packages will be of nine nights and 10 days. Dakshin Darshan will start on August 7 from Ahmedabad and Uttar Darshan will start on August 22 from Pune,” said Rahul Himalian, additional general manager of IRCTC.

Both packages have two options for travellers — Standard (sleeper class) and Comfort (3AC).

For Dakshin Darshan, the cost for Standard option is Rs 12,649 per person. For Comfort option, it is Rs 18,499 per person. The comprehensive tour package includes train journey by sleeper or 3AC class, hotel or dharamshala accommodation, road transportation, meals, sightseeing, tour escorts and security arrangement. The train will cover cultural, heritage and pilgrimage destinations of Goa, Tirupati, Rameshwaram, Madurai, Thiruvananthapuram, Kanyakumari and Kovalam, said Himalian.

For Uttar Darshan, the cost of the Standard option is Rs 11,499 per person and Comfort option is Rs 17,049 per person. The train will cover cultural, heritage and pilgrimage destinations such as Mathura, Agra, Haridwar, Amritsar and Vaishnodevi.

The boarding points for Dakshin Darshan are Kalyan and Pune and for Uttar Darshan, Ahmedabad, Kalyan and Pune.

Tourists can book their ticket either online at or by sending an email to People can also contact IRCTC offices at respective centres.

Published in: on July 28, 2012 at 6:58 am  Leave a Comment  
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A tale of Bangalore and Delhi Metro

The metro network in Bangalore started operations a few months ago. It covers a relatively small stretch of about seven kilometres.

In comparison, the Delhi Metro has been operating its network for almost a decade, and now covers a distance of over 190 kilometres.

Yet, a comparison between the two networks will tell you a lot about the way public transport projects are conceived, executed and operated in India.
And there are obvious lessons for those who intend to embark on similar projects planned for several cities across the country.

The Bangalore Metro network was initially conceived as a public-private partnership in 1993, almost at around the same time as the Delhi Metro idea.

The difference was that while the Bangalore Metro could not make headway on the project for almost a decade, breaking its head over how it could implement the correct concessionaire agreement with the prospective operator, the Delhi Metro stayed away from the PPP model and set up a project in which the Centre and the state government were equal partners.

It began implementing the project from 1995 and, by 2002, trains began running on a short stretch of about five kilometres. That perhaps is the first lesson. How effective is the PPP model in public transport projects?

The Bangalore Metro explored various options and even did the unthinkable by asking the prospective bidders of the project to indicate along with their bids the nature of the concessionaire agreement that they would prefer.

Little did it realise then that the framing of a concessionaire agreement should have preceded the bidding process, so that the bidders made their offers on that basis.

Fortunately, the Bangalore Metro soon recognised the problems with the PPP model, opted for what the Delhi Metro did, and work on it began in 2003.

It is, therefore, important for policy makers to realise that the choice of the PPP model is no guarantee for ensuring efficient and smooth execution of a public transport project.

Whatever be the model, the project promoters should get the basics right and follow the well-established principles of any model of executing a project. This is not rocket science.

There is no reason why the Bangalore Metro should have wasted ten years before discarding the PPP model and allowing the Centre and the state government to be the joint owners of the project. Both models can work.

If you opt for the PPP model, make sure that the concessionaire agreement with the operator is foolproof and fixes all responsibilities in a transparent way.

Similarly, operational freedom and accountability through an institutional framework are a necessary precondition for the success of a metro project where the Centre and the state are joint owners.

The Delhi Metro’s execution and operation stood out for another reason – it had E Sreedharan as the managing director, who by the time he came to head the project had acquired an icon-like status in executing railway projects.

Few in the government system or outside could stand in the way if Sreedharan decided a certain course of action. It’s true that the Indian Railways succeeded in forcing the broad-gauge model for the first phase of the Delhi Metro, against the wishes of Sreedharan.

But the second phase did see the introduction of standard gauge, an indication that the Delhi Metro managing director would eventually have his way whatever the nature of his opposition.

Sreedharan executed the Delhi Metro project with efficiency, speed and only a few minor accidents. He introduced a lean management structure.

But he also showed scant regard for the established processes for the selection of contractors or vendors, and decided to choose his own methods.

Since he enjoyed the reputation of a man of integrity and had tasted of success as well, the voices of protest against the way he ran the project were few and muted.

In a system with an acute scarcity of efficient managers with integrity, Sreedharan enjoyed leeway that would be denied to most others in similar situations.

In sharp contrast, the Bangalore Metro project is being executed without a highly visible leader like Sreedharan. The managing director of the Bangalore Metro Transport Corporation is N Sivasailam, a mechanical engineer who joined the Indian Administrative Service in 1985.

He maintains a low profile, but that in no way has adversely affected the efficiency of execution in the project, although there were delays in the early stages of its implementation.

The project is running efficiently and it has already begun earning profit on the short stretch on which it operates. It has a long way to go, but the Bangalore Metro has established that an efficiently executed project need not be a one-man show. Instead, it can be the result of team work helped by a strong institutional framework.

Even in tariff-setting, the Bangalore Metro has charted a new path that is more transparent and participative than that followed by the Delhi Metro.

The recommendations of the tariff advisory committee of the Delhi Metro are binding on the operator. However, the composition of the committee and the nature of its recommendations are not immune to political influence or pressure.

In the case of the Bangalore Metro, tariffs are set transparently after a non-governmental organisation conducts open consultations among all stakeholders including commuters.

Clearly, the new metro networks coming up in different parts of the country have a lot to learn from the experiences of Delhi and Bangalore.

PMO clears roadmap for Mum-Ahd bullet train

Putting the ambitious Mumbai-Ahmedabad rail corridor on the fast track, the railways will constitute a project steering group to examine options for executing it.

The prime minister’s office (PMO) on Friday announced a roadmap for implementation of flagship infrastructure projects, which include high-speed corridors, the elevated rail corridor for thesuburban Mumbaisection and redevelopment of stations.

The high-speed rail corridor project between Mumbai andAhmedabad andother six routes is technologically the most advanced railway project. A pre-feasibility study has been conducted by RITES in association with other experts.There are various alternatives for implementing the high-speed corridor project but out of all, only the special purpose vehicle (SPV) or the public–private partnership (PPP) options, seem viable, said a senior railway ministry official.

The group will examine options for implementing the project and finalizing the feasibleones,suggesting waysof strengthening the capacity of railways to design and executehigh-speedtrain projects and suggest mechanisms for quickly moving forward on chosen options.
The elevated rail corridor in Mumbai, the other key infrastructure project of the railways, also got the PMO’s nod. According to the official, the projectwillbeimplemented in PPP mode and a concessionaire will be finalized by March 15, 2013. — PTI
Estimated Cost 60,000 crore Expected Speed 300kmph Distance 492 km Travel Time 2.5 hrs Duronto takes 7 hours to cover the distance.

More women now report about crimes on trains

There are more reported incidents of crime against women passengers during train journeys. This fact is verified by the number of complaints registered through the helpline numbers of government railway police (GRP) and railway protection force (RPF). However, senior officials of both forces said it didn’t indicate an increase in the crime rate. More women come forward and register their complaints, particularly after the Soumya murder, they said.

In 2011, GRP registered 40 cases that include molestation and eve teasing, while till July 24, 2012 they have already registered 40 cases. Similar is the case with RPF 22 were registered in 2011, while this year 25 cases have been filed till July.

The RPF (9995040000) and GRP (9846200100) helplines are witnessing more calls since last year, officials said.

Southern Railway Thiruvananthapuram divisional security commissioner K J Joy said women passengers, who faced an issue, avoided legal procedures and related tangles. “This reluctance prevented many cases from getting reported and I believe that despite our efforts there are unfortunate incidents.

There are more registered cases now because women passengers want justice and we ensure it from our side. I am glad that families are supporting them, which is the need of the hour.

To avoid situations like last week – when the RPF personnel released an offender – we have instructed our men to follow rules stringently,” Joy said. Echoing similar sentiments, GRP SP, Rajan John said that the significant increase is also due to the response and help both forces facilitate. “The smooth coordination we enjoy with RPF and local police help us to take up all requests, even pleas for medical help. However, absence of personnel is an impediment,” Rajan said. Official said, GRP has 500 personnel in Kerala and RPF has close to 750.

But the force is insufficient argue officials. Meanwhile GRP has launched a new initiative titled ‘Subhayathramangalam’ under which passengers can register complaints with beat officers on trains and avail a copy of the complaint immediately.

Passenger need not go to police station to keep track of the case, they can get case procedure details through a telephone call.

Thiruvananthapuram: There are more reported incidents of crime against women passengers during train journey, reveals the complaints registered through the helpline numbers of government railway police (GRP) and railway protection force (RPF). However, senior officials of both these forces said it didn’t indicate an increase in crime rate but only proves that more women now come forward to register their complaints, particularly after the Saumya murder.

In 2011, GRP registered 40 cases that include molestation and eve teasing, while in the year 2012 up to July 24, they have already registered 40 cases. Similar is the case with RPF which registered 22 cases of crime against women in 2011, but already filed 25 cases up to July 2012.

The RPF helpline 9995040000 and GRP’s 9846200100 are witnessing an increase in calls since last year, officials said.

K J Joy, Southern Railway Thiruvananthapuram divisional security commissioner, said that previously women passengers who faced an issue had used to avoid legal procedures and related tangles. “That prevented many cases from getting reported and I believe that despite our efforts to remain vigil there are situations occurring when the modesty of a woman is outraged. The rise in cases registered is because women passengers now want justice and since we ensure that, they are coming forward. I am glad that their families are supporting them, which is the need of the hour. To avoid situations like last week when the RPF personnel released an offender we have instructed the force to follow rules stringently,” Joy said.

Echoing this, GRP SP, Rajan John said that significant increase in response is result of both forces facilitating support for the passengers.

“The smooth coordination we have with RPF and local police are helping us to meet the demands and both our helplines are receiving pleas for even medical help. However absence of personnel is an impediment affecting both of us,” Rajan pointed put.

While GRP just has 500 personnel for the state, RPF has close to 750 personnel, which according to officials are too low to meet the demands.

Meanwhile GRP has also launched ‘Subhayathramangalam’, a venture under which passengers can register complaints with beat officers on train and avail a copy of the complaint immediately. The scheme is to help passenger avoid going to police station and receive details on case procedure through telephone.

All Rail coaches to have bio-toilets by 2017

The Ministry of Rural Development has offered to fit all new railways coaches with DRDO built bio-toilets and to share half the cost of retrofitting all existing 50,000 coaches with green toilets. Minister of Rural Development Shri Jairam Ramesh met the Railway Board Chairman Shri Vinay Mittal here and expressed the hope to complete the project in the next four to five years. Shri Ramesh informed that the whole project will cost about 500 crore rupees and offered to share the burden on a 50-50 basis with the Railways. He said, at present only 9 trains with 436 coaches are fitted with bio-toilets, while 4,000 coaches are produced annually which could be fitted with new bio-toilets. The measure will not only prevent the corrosion of tracks but will also provide odourless toilets to passengers. At present waste is dumped directly on to the tracks because of the existing toilet system in trains. Many passengers ignore requests to not use toilets when trains halt. Apart from the unbearable stench it creates, the practice leads to clogging of rail lines at busy stations.

Shri Ramesh has also requested the Railways Ministry to run Nirmal Bharat Express on the model of Red Ribbon Express to spread the message of cleanliness and sanitation. Shri Mittal has given a positive nod to the proposal and asked the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation to submit a detailed plan in this regard.

Konkan Railway’s Ro-ro Service Enables Easy, Fuel-efficient Transport

The ro-ro (roll-on roll-off) service by Konkan Railway started 13 years ago is a unique service that has enabled transport of loaded trucks directly by railway wagons. This is win-win project,” said deputy chief commercial manager of Konkan Railways Nandu Telang.

Addressing a press meet at the Konkan Railway Corporation service office on Tuesday July 24, Telang said that as of now, five rakes are operating, and soon a sixth one will be added.

The ro-ro service has reduced expenditure on diesel, wear and tear of tyres and maintanance of trucks for operators, and has lso ensured on-time and intact delivery,” he said, adding that in 13 years since its inception, there has not been a single case of accident.

“At the national level, this service has helped to conserve precious fuel and reduced pollution levels along the route,” he said.

The ro-ro service is currently functioning between Kolad and Verna in Maharashtra (417 km, 8-10 hours journey), Kolad and Suratkal (721 km, 24 hours journey), and Ankola and Suratkal (205 km, 3-5 hours journey).

On the Kolad-Verna route, 15 metric tonnes of load costs Rs 4,500, with every additional tonne costing Rs 300; on Kolad-Suratkal route, 15 metric tonnes costs Rs 6,900, with Rs 400 for every additional tonne.

“This year (2011-2012) as many as 35,000 trucks were carried in all the five rakes. All kinds of goods are transported, including perishable ones but excluding inflammable items like petrol,” Telang said.

“Over the 13 years, the ro-ro service has fetched a profit of Rs 205. 60 crore,” he added, lamenting that the only downside was the affect on the service due to ban on mining following Lokayukta reports of illegal mining in the state.

He said that at present, only Konkan Railway runs this service, while others are contemplating its introduction. “It is left to the railway ministry to decide on introducing the service across the country. The railway board of India is considering its practicability,” he said.

Listing out the advantages of the service to operators he said that some of the benefits include increase in profit margins, no risk of accident, fuel conservation, and less paper work. For railways, the advantages are that goods can be carried to-and-fro, there is no requirement of goods sheds, no possibility of detention on terminals even on holidays, and no additional overhead costs.

For the nation, the advantage lies in the fact that each ro-ro rake carries 40 trucks, saving approximately 10 litres of diesel per kilometer. “Hence, the service contributes to fuel conservation. It has also resulted in reduction of road accidents on NH 66,” he said.

“Road transport is mainly in the private sector. A large number of truck owners are looking forward to reaping the benefits of fuel efficiency of railways. This has also increased the number of trips undertaken to transport goods and enhanced the value of their assets,” he added.

“Earlier, goods on railways were suppplied in containers which needed machinery for their loading and unloading. However, ro-ro service has eliminated that problem and enabled door-to-door service to the end user,” he said.

Assistant commercial manager of Konkan Railway Corporation Sunil Narkar, assistant traffic mangaer Vinay, and manager and PRO V G Ghatge were present.

Modern training system for loco pilots to tackle stress

In an attempt to ensure safety of passengers, Railways is mulling to introduce a modern training system for loco pilots which would help them to tackle driving-related stress. The PSU behemoth is facing issues of long duty hours and inadequate rest involving loco pilots. A computerised psychological test package is being procured by Indian Railways for screening and training of train drivers. “The computerised psychological assessment tool measures specific abilities related to the job of loco pilots which include alertness, attentiveness, reaction time, vigilance, speed anticipation among others,” a senior Railway Ministry official said. The test can measure cognitive abilities and personality traits of individuals. “An advance loco pilot training centre is being set up by Railways to introduce the modern test system for drivers. This will help the drivers to tackle stress and also keeping one’s composure,” he said. Currently, Railways has 90,000 posts of loco pilots of which 22,000 are vacant. The need for the test system has become essential now as the public transporter is actively considering to run trains at higher speed. There will be screening of loco pilots prior to their deployment on high-speed trains. Testing process and calculation of results are totally automatic and the results are generated as soon as the testing is over. The use of computer ensures the highest possible level of objectivity and precision, and enables dimensions to be tested that could not be measured by traditional tests. In addition, the scoring of test results is guaranteed to be fast and accurate.

Published in: on July 21, 2012 at 4:56 pm  Leave a Comment  

Railways to set up more water plants

Getting packaged drinking water has been a problem for passengers on trains and at railway stations.

Even the Parliamentary Standing Committee headed by T. R. Baalu in its report tabled in the Rajya Sabha in May 2010 had expressed concern that there was a shortage of packaged water on moving trains and that the sale of water bottles was being done without the prescribed manufacturing labels and information about manufacturing and expiry dates. To meet this shortage, the Railway Board will now set up six more water treatment plants across the country.

These plants, which have recently been approved by the Board, will be in addition to three water treatment plants in Delhi, Danapur (Bihar) and Pallor (Tamil Nadu), which jointly produce 3.8 lakh water bottles per day and another plant in Ambernath (Maharashtra) which will become operational by the end of 2013.

These plants, which produce “ Rail Neer” , are run by the Indian Railway Catering & Tourism Corporation Limited (IRCTC).

The six new plants for production of packaged drinking water will be in Ambala, Amethi, Nashik, Mul, Thiruvananthapuram and Farakka.

IRCTC Public Relations Joint General Manager Pradip Kundu accepted that the three plants have been unable to fulfil 20 per cent drinking water needs of the passengers. “The present production of 3.8 lakh bottles per day caters to just less than 20 per cent of the total need.”

Rlys declares war on rodents, with sticks, torches…

The Railways is at war, and the baddies in this conflict are rats and cockroaches. As part of a critical operation to make railway coaches more hygienic, railway employees — armed with sticks, torches and magnifying glasses — are being pressed into service in locomotive yards. The crack units have been entrusted with the task of plugging cracks and crevices that double up as homes for rodents and winged pests. Forensic experts have been requisitioned to flush the uninvited “refugees” out with aluminum phosphide, fumigant tablets and toxin-laced goodies.

Passenger coaches, on the other hand, are being fitted with glue boards that trap rats, allowing staffers to unceremoniously end their existence.

This initiative of the Railways stems out of recent recommendations of a departmental committee, heavily inspired by a 2010 policy on ‘Prevention and control of pests and rodents in trains’.

HT had earlier reported that rodents, spiders and cockroaches were having a free run in railway coaches — much to the discomfort of everybody concerned. “But now we are all set to tackle this problem. The campaign will be launched within a week. We have already got the rats on the run,” a ministry official said.

However, the officials know that the war is far from over. Bracing itself for a bitter, drawn-out campaign, the Railways has decided to bolster its ranks by roping in private players. Consequently, “the model conditions of contracts” for engaging private players through the Public Private Partnership mode have been firmed up. “Some contracts have been signed, and there are many more in the pipeline,” an official said.

According to the terms of the agreement, private pest control operators have to obtain the approval of plant protection officers of state agriculture departments, or the Faridabad-based Central Integrated Pest Management Centre.

Published in: on July 21, 2012 at 4:45 pm  Leave a Comment  
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