Popular shows, serials to greet passengers of Lalbagh Express

From October 1, passengers of Lalbagh Express and four other trains can view popular shows and serials hosted by Star Vijay, Sony TV, Star Plus and Kumudam webTV.

The Bangalore-Chennai Central Shatabdi Express is already having the facility being provided by Chennai-based Trans Vision Digital Media through Go TV at free-of-cost on trial basis since July.

The infotainment will get activated as soon as the train departs from the originating station. The travellers will be greeted in English, Hindi, Tamil and Kannada about the travel time. Altogether, twenty LCD colour televisions are installed in 10 compartments of the Shatabdi Express that beam the latest movies, health tips, tourist destinations and information about passing stations.

Trans Vision Director V. Girish Kumar told The Hindu that “at present, we are fine-tuning the system. Travellers will get to see high TRP programmes such as ‘Ungalil yaar Prabhu Deva’ and ‘Super Singer Junior 3.’”

Beginning October 1, the facility would be made available in five trains and its pairs. Out of five sectors – three would cater for Chennai-Bangalore and rest would cover Mysore-Shimoga and Bangalore-Hubli.

“We are discussing with top officials of Southern Railway on the possibility of introducing it in Chennai-Mysore Shatabdi Express, Brindavan Express, Chennai-Bangalore A/C double decker and other trains. Our aim is to provide entertainment services in 30 to 35 trains by March. Passengers can even watch live cricket matches or major events while travelling from one sector to another,” he said.


Lone woman coolie mans Goa station

Dressed in a bright blue sari with a rag tied around her waist, 40-year-old Shashi Bomkar is busy with disinfectants and mops at the mens’ waiting room of Goa’s Karmali railway station at 11am. She can pass off for any other cleaning lady, if one is not around halfan-hour later to witness the transformation.

At 11.30am, a voice through the station speaker announces the arrival of the Konkan Kanya Express and Shashi switches roles. She unties the rag , wipes off the beads of sweat over her brows and puts on the red shirt of a porter’s uniform over her sari. She then pulls out a green trolley to carry her customers’ luggage and stands fiveft-tall to receive passengers.

The other porter at the station — where only a select trains stop everyday — is a male, Ankush Parvatkar. When the train arrives, Ankush is immediately approached by a passenger to carry his luggage to the exit. Passengers walk past Shashi’s calls to carry their luggage, most pulling their wheeled baggage smoothly through the sunny weather.

But nature will not allow Shashi to turn away disheartened on this particular day. A sudden bout of rain hits the station and a couple of passengers quickly throw their luggage into Shashi’s trolley. She runs to the safety of the station’s tinroof shelter with the bags.

“My husband was working at this station as a porter. He passed away eight years ago. It was sudden and I had two young children — a daughter and a son — to raise,” says Shashi. “I took it up as I did not want my children to give up school,” she says. She earns a fixed sum of Rs 4,000 for cleaning, but earning from the porter’s job remains fickle — about Rs 100 on a good day.


Published in: on September 29, 2012 at 4:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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Scrap shapes elephant God of railways

Lower Parel, Mahalaxmi workshops display unique idols.

The Lower Parel railway workshop Ganesh idol is a burning example of how to put waste to best use. The six-foot-tall idol made entirely from dumped railway bogie parts stands proudly inside a temple made from scrap generated by the workshop. The Lord and His abode are so unique, it is hard to miss them even amid the hectic activity around.

“I created the idol around three years ago. All of us who work here pray to it every day. It is a symbol of our dedication to railways. It sends out the message that even scrap is given the form of God here,” said Santosh Gajakosh, a grade-I fitter who maintains old coaches, beats iron panels into shape and repairs equipment.

While the idol trunk is made of equalising stay rods, milk tank brass hangers make its ears and air suspension cylinders the body. The idol is repainted and decorated before every Ganesh and other festivals.

The heavy duty railway workshop at Mahalaxmi too is a proud possessor of two such Ganesh idols and an ‘iron man’.

“It takes 10-12 days to complete the work,” said Ganesh Laxman Ambekar, a grade-I welder who has made the two idols, one showing Ganpati playing a musical instrument.

The ‘iron man’ gifted by bogie assembling unit staff to Indian Railways on the 85th anniversary of electrification of WR, is symbolic of the core nature of the Mahalaxmi workshop that maintains local trains.

Ambekar and Gajakosh’s enthusiasm is shared by Rajan Bhagwat, a junior engineer in the mechanical department of the diesel locomotive shed in Pune. He also spends considerable time and effort in creating idols from scrap.

“In 2001, I made an idol of Lord Ganesh for installation in the bungalow of then Central Railway general manager. In 2003, I made another idol for then GM’s Peddar Road bungalow using scrap from diesel locomotives at the shed. I used the lid of a filter drum to make the face of the idol. I have also made idols of Balaji and Padmavathi from scrap. The satisfaction is immense,” said Bhagwat.


Service tax on AC and first class rail fares from Oct.1

Service tax will be levied on high-end passenger classes, freight and auxiliary services rendered at railway stations from October 1.

The decision was taken on Wednesday at a meeting between Railway Minister C.P. Joshi and Finance Minister P. Chidambaram.

Fares of air-conditioned classes will go up by 3.708 per cent and that of first class by 7 per cent after permissible abatements.

Similarly, freight charges will go up by 3.708 per cent, while users of auxiliary services at stations will have to bear the burden of 12.36 per cent.

The railways had increased high-end passenger fares by about 30 per cent and that of freight too by a similar margin.

The revenue accruing to the exchequer from these service taxes has been estimated at Rs. 3100 crore annually.

The decision is being viewed as the first step towards the integration of the railways with the proposed goods and service tax regime.

Through another decision, the railways decided to levy a busy season and busy route surcharge on freight that varies from commodity to commodity up to a maximum of 10 per cent effective from October 1.

The railways hope to mop up an additional Rs. 826 crore in the next six months.

Western railway corridor gets PM nod

The railway projects in the city have got a boost as well as a setback.

Prime minister Manmohan Singh has given the nod for the Rs18,000-crore elevated railway corridor on the Western Railway from Churchgate to Virar. But, the railway board has rejected the Rs32,000-crore elevated corridor on the Central Railway from Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus to Kalyan.

Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan had reservations about the elevated corridor, considering the complex project as it would require a lot of changes in the central and western line.

“It appears that the PMO has taken a hasty decision without a proper debate. The project should have been debated at length before taking a decision,” said former Union minister Ram Naik.
Former Union minister and Mumbai member of Parliament (MP) Gurudas Kamat took special initiative to push the Western Railway’s elevated railway corridor with the PMO.

However, state executing agencies such as the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) and urban development department have not even discussed the project in detail.

“We have not even held a preliminary meeting with the railway department on elevated corridor along the Western Railway,” said a senior secretary in the Urban Development Ministry.

The MMRDA, which is executing the two metro rail projects, is struggling to keep pace with the deadlines which had to be extended from 2010 to 2014 following delays in land acquisitions and removal of illegal encroachments along the project.

The Western Railway’s elevated corridor, which will take seven to eight years to be completed, is a joint public-private partnership project of the railways, the state government and private organisation. The coaches will be air-conditioned. “At the moment it is impossible to set a deadline of eight years when the basic home work is not completed,” said officials of the urban department.

Naik added that the inordinate delay in the project’s execution has lead to its cost escalation from Rs 3,125 crore to Rs 4,174 crore.
Meanwhile, almost 17 months after the widening of tracks from Virar to Dahanu, the railways are yet to commission the Churchgate-Dahanu direct local trains.


Rewari heritage rail museum to attract students

The northern railway and the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) has decided to launch a special drive to attract students from schools and colleges to railway museum in Rewari, which is one of the oldest Railway Loco Sheds in India.

A team comprising northern railway chief mechanical engineer (CME) Ashwini Lohani, deputy chief mechanical engineer Vikas Arya and INTACH Haryana convener Jayanto Sanyal who is also former union secretary with the ministry of tourism, and Rewari District INTACH convener Sudhir Bhargava visited the Rewari Heritage Loco Shed recently.

The team decided to make efforts to increase the foot falls to the museum by attracting students from hundreds of schools and colleges located in South Haryana.

Rewari INTACH Chapter will coordinate the efforts by involving educational institutions to send their students in groups to the museum, Bharvava informed the Times of India. He informed that the railway museum in Rewari, located in one of the oldest Railway Loco Sheds in India which was established in 1880s, houses several steam engines which are no longer in use.

“The well maintained museum could not generate the expected foot falls and a new strategy is needed to increase the number of visitors to the museum”, he said.

Bhargava stated that for attracting youngsters to this heritage, railways have been requested by INTACH to bring some changes in set up and introduce new facilities in the museum which keep students occupied for 2-3 hours at this place.

The railway CME Lohani has agreed and instructed accompanying staff to do the needful.

Vikas Arya informed that couple of measures are already in the pipe line and others will be completed by the beginning of October 2012.

“New facilities to be provided in the museum include showing of documentaries and films about the history, and present operations of railways throughout this vast country. These films will be shown to groups of 50 students, once or twice a day in museum conference hall and will be of duration of 30-40 minutes”, he informed.

Though there are several models of small engines and other equipment and exhibits in photo form etc. displayed in the halls, more exhibits may be added in the posters form showing the railway network in different terrains of India like hills, seas, over the rivers, in deserts, etc, giving the youngsters glimpses of not only the country but how railways manage the difficult task.

Lohani assured that steam Locomotives would be shown in running condition also to make students familiar with the old technology.

The restaurant at the premises will also be students oriented and some food package could be given to the groups. A special guide could be provided to answer queries by students.

A brochure on the history of museum, Railways and important exhibits of the museum would be released soon which would be distributed to visitors free of cost.

Rewari INTACH convener Sudhir Bhargava stressed that the strategy of the museum should be to keep the visiting students busy, for 2 to 3 hours, by providing more facilities so that the tour is worthwhile for students who may come to museum from an area of radius of 50 kms. Also students in this agricultural belt will have good exposure to technological aspects too. These facilities are likely to be ready by the beginning of October 2012.


Matheran monsoon toy train run from Sept 29?

In a first during the monsoon, Central Railway (CR) is likely to run the toy train service on the 3-km Aman Lodge-Matheran stretch from September 29.

Chetan Bakshi, CRS (Central circle), is likely to grant the clearance in a day or two. “It is not proper to disclose the schedule until the official approval comes. But we are prepared to run the service from September 29.


Railways to make fresh entry into Meghalaya

After a century, the hills of Meghalaya has signalled in the Railways once again, with Chief Minister Mukul Sangma laying the foundation of the Dudhnoi-Mendipathar railway station in Garo Hills recently.

Incidentally, Railways in Meghalaya is not something new. Although this is for the first time the railways would chug into Meghalaya after it attained Statehood in 1972, but the State is one of the first places in India to have the railways.

In 1895-96, the British Provincial Government of Composite Assam built the Cherra- Companyganj State Railways (CCSR) and was one of the first railway projects of that era. It was a contemporary of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railways or “Toy Train” now listed as a World-heritage.

CCSR was in fact a Tramway of 2’6” gauge and was a feeder line to transport passengers and goods between Cherrapunjee to Sylhet (Bangladesh).

On June 16, 1886, people from this quaint hill-station, undertook the first journey aboard one of the most romantic Mountain Railways of the world between Tharia near Cheerapunjee and Companyganj (now in Bangladesh) covering a distance of 7.5 miles.

CSSR at the end of its first year of service in 1887, chugged away to earn Rs 4,734. It doggedly toiled on to increase its earnings to Rs 17,490 by 1890, thus reducing its total loss to about Rs 2,000! But after 10 years, the Earthquake of 1897 consigned the CCSR to the pages of history.

The proposed 19.47 km new railway line would connect Dudhnoi in Goalpara district of Assam and Mendipathar, North Garo Hills district of Meghalaya.

This project of the Indian Railways was approved in 1992-93, but, faced hurdles during its initial days due to opposition from the local population. However, this time, it is slated to be completed by 2013.

Terming the occasion as “historic” Sangma said that Meghalaya has missed many opportunities in bringing the Railways in the past. “We have to open up and also change our mindset,” Sangma said referring to opposition against the railways from some groups in Meghalaya.


Published in: on September 29, 2012 at 3:38 am  Leave a Comment  

Home guards to shield rail tracks

Rail authorities in Tatanagar have sent a proposal to the state home department seeking deployment of home guards on tracks to bolster security under Ranchi and Chakradharpur divisions, which have been witness to acts of sabotage by Naxalites.
The proposal aims to cover the network of tracks falling under the jurisdiction of the superintendent of railway police in Tatanagar, Mritunjay Kishore, under whose initiative the step has been taken.
He said the authorities were hopeful that the state department would soon accept the proposal.
Speaking to The Telegraph, Kishore pointed out that home guards were being posted to protect railway tracks in a few states already, including neighbouring Odisha and Andhra Pradesh, both affected by left-wing extremism.

“The idea for engaging home guards for protection of railway tracks was taken from Odisha. As various parts of our region are battling the Naxalite problem, we have also decided to follow the same model,” said the superintendent.

Kishore said the proposal ‘ sent to the home department as well as the South Eastern Railway authorities ‘ was discussed during two meetings between rail officials at Chakradharpur earlier this month.

“The home department in Odisha bears the responsibility of making payments of salary and establishment costs for engaging home guards. We expect that the home department in Jharkhand will follow suit,” he added.

Kishore said the home guards guarding the tracks would not be armed, but equipped with communication gadgets such as wireless sets and walkie-talkies to alert the railway police and officials on spotting anything dubious.

A number of stations falling under Chakradharpur and Ranchi divisions are considered sensitive in view of Naxalite presence.
Under Chakradharpur, Posaita, Manoharpur and Galudih-Ghatshila sections have witnessed a number of sabotages engineered by Naxalites.
Similarly Lohardaga, Gumla, Simdega, Khunti and Seraikela-Kharsawan are all Naxalite-hit districts falling under the Ranchi division.
When asked, Kishore said the authorities were yet to determine the number of guards to be posted, adding it would be decided after a go-ahead.
Home guards are recruited by the home department on temporary basis and paid wages for providing assistance to the police in maintaining law and order.


China’s rail network to touch India’s border

China has announced it will accelerate plans to expand a railway network in Tibet to reach two towns near the border with India and will also consider building a railway line to Nepal, officials said this week.

New railway lines from Lhasa to Xigaze (Shigatse in Tibetan) and the town of Nyingchi, which lies in a prefecture bordering Arunachal Pradesh, will be built as key projects under a five-year development plan (2011-15) for the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), which was announced on Wednesday.

Separately, the State-run Xinhua news agency carried a report indicating that the construction of a railway line from Tibet to Nepal was discussed during Premier Wen Jiabao’s visit last week to Kathmandu.

“The railway which will join Nepal and the Tibet Autonomous Region of China will further strengthen ties between the two countries,” Xinhua quoted Nepal President Ram Baran Yadav as saying.


The projects will widen the asymmetry in infrastructure across the Himalayas. Jin Shixun, chief of the TAR development and reform commission, said in a statement the railway projects would “pay a vital role in boosting tourism and accelerating the transport of natural resources”.

Chinese officials say the projects are aimed at boosting connectivity to bring development to Tibet’s frontier regions.

Indian defence officials have, however, voiced concern over the strategic implications of infrastructure projects located near the border.

The statement said the extension of the Qinghai-Tibet railway line, which currently ends in Lhasa, to Xigaze would be completed by 2015. Construction of another line from Lhasa to Nyingchi will also begin under the five-year plan.


By the end of last year, $538 million — or a quarter of the budget — had already been spent since construction on the Xigaze line began in September 2010.

Xinhua said the 253-km line would pass through the 90-km-long Grand Canyon of the Yarlung Zangbo — as the Brahmaputra is known in Tibet.

The line would have a capacity to carry 8.3 million tonnes of freight annually.


Published in: on September 29, 2012 at 3:34 am  Leave a Comment  
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