360-degree visual display unit at CST

Come October and Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) will have an added attraction that will give passengers information, entertainment and security alerts. It will also assist them in case children go missing in the crowd.

An enormous 360-degree screen is being installed at the main concourse for outstation trains, while a smaller visual display unit is coming up in the suburban concourse.

Stressing the importance of passenger information systems, a senior official said on the condition of anonymity, “When terrorist Kasab had entered CST, an announcer relayed it to the public saving thousands of lives. Had this display system been installed earlier, the information could have been displayed on screen.’’

Besides giving a facelift to the station, it will provide commuters real-time information and updates. Installation of the cylindrical unit, 5ft broad and 8ft in diameter, will be over this month and the screens should be running by October 2, Gandhi Jayanti, said Mehul Patel, Managing director, HMP and Associates, the firm installing the unit.

CST- a world heritage site- is the first railway station in India to have this circular display unit, which gives shaper and clearer pictures, officials said.

“Two display units would be placed at CST, one 8ft by 5ft and the other 6 ft by 4 ft. Imported from Taiwan, and manufactured by a USA-based company, the smaller unit would be placed in the suburban concourse area near the square iconic clock, and the larger near the entry gate for outstation trains,’’ said a senior official.

The circular unit with sharper picture quality would display advertisements. Apart from this, public awareness pictures and videos would be shown.

“Five minutes per hour would be reserved for videos pertaining to railway issues like safety, trespassing and security measures. Three different or similar images or videos can be played at three different screens at the same time,’’ he added.

The cost of these units is approximately Rs 1.20 crore. The advertising contractor is supposed to pay Rs 16 lakh per annum to the Central Railway (CR) as premium charges.

The content on the display unit would be decided by the advertising contractor and monitored by the CR. “We would like to display 60% advertisements and allocate the rest of the time for informative and entertaining content that could help passengers. Security messages will also be displayed in emergency situations,” said Patel.


Published in: on September 29, 2012 at 3:21 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

Railways to standardize over-bridges

Railways will soon standardize the design of rail over-bridges and under-bridges to reduce the time taken to approve such works for highway expansion. The decision was taken on Monday at a meeting chaired by railway minister C P Joshi, who is also in-charge of the highways ministry. He said proposals for 46 ROBs were being cleared now.


Skip the queue with Western Railway’s ticket kiosks

Western Railway (WR) commuters won’t need to stand in long queues at Churchgate station to buy tickets or renew their passes. WR on Friday installed two Automatic Ticketing Kiosks (ATKs) that allow commuters to buy tickets, recharge smart cards and renew season tickets in a matter of seconds. The machines, however, require commuters to tender exact fare, including currency notes and coins.

The machines have been installed on a pilot basis and will be installed at other WR stations if they are a hit with commuters. WR officials said they will observe the machines’ performance for a month.

These user-operated machines have been approved by the Centre for Railway Information, an information and technology arm of the Indian Railways. Till Friday evening, around 90 commuters had used the ATKs. A senior WR official said, “The ATKs will accept currency notes from Rs 5-500. We have requested commuters not to use the new Re 1 coin and the Rs 2 coin. The software has been designed in such a way that it will discard currency notes that are old, fake, wet, moist or mutilated.”

WR has deployed personnel with technical expertise at the kiosks. “They will guide commuters and give them step-by-step instructions on how to use the machines,” said the WR official. “There is a time out of 60 second. Each transaction must be completed within this time.”

Commuters have welcomed the move. Virar resident Vivek Pandya said, “It is good initiative but the exact fare condition can turn out to be drawback.”


Diesel price hike will cost railways extra 1,200 crore per year

The diesel price hike has come as a shocker for railways which is reeling under a financial crunch but there is no immediate plan to increase freight tariff. The Rs 5 hike in price of diesel is expected to put an additional burden of around Rs 1,200 crore every year on the cash-strapped transporter, headed by Trinamool Congress nominee Mukul Roy.

“There is no move as yet to increase freight charges though the increase in diesel price will hit us badly. As of now, we have no plan to shift the burden on freight operators,” a senior railway official said.

The railways had effected a 20-25% hike in freight rates before the rail budget this year.

The transporter consumes about 280 crore litres of diesel every year to run its fleet of around 4,500 diesel locomotives, hauling both freight and passenger trains. Railways paid about Rs 13,209 crore in the current fiscal and Rs 11,741 crore during the last fiscal towards its fuel bill. The increase in fuel consumption every year is due to addition of new services and more freight haulage. “Since nearly six months have already passed in 2012-13, the additional cost of the fuel bill will be around Rs 100 crore per month this fiscal,” an official said.


Published in: on September 22, 2012 at 1:47 pm  Leave a Comment  

Portal to track those missing on tracks

Launched two months ago by the Mumbai Government Railway Police (GRP), the website (shodh.gov.in) has already benefited 343 families trace their kin who died or were injured in train accidents. The police say the portal’s special features, including photographs of victims, have made the search more effective.

Over 3,800 persons were injured and 3,450 died in railway mishaps on the suburban section of central and Western Railway last year (see box).

The website, which has been functional since July, is in the last leg of completion, and will be formally inaugurated within two months. The officials said that they had been working on the website since January and have managed to create a system that is better than the missing persons portals operated by the central and Western Railway.

A GRP officer said, “We used to forward the details of accident victims to CR and WR, including photographs, but they were uploading only the description, not the pictures. This would result in several matches showing the physical description of the person being searched for, which was adding to the trauma of the kin.”

The website has been visited by over 3,095 people since it became operational.

A constable, Vijay Chavan, attached with the computer department of the GRP, played an important role in completing the linkages. “The top brass of GRP conceptualised the idea. Features such as photograph of the victim, photo of his clothes in case his face is damaged, apart from a detailed physical description, is available on the website. This has helped several persons who had been searching for their kin for months,” said Chavan, a postgraduate in computer application.

GRP commissioner Prabhat Kumar said: “We are on the verge of completing work on the portal. Once it is upgraded with the global positioning system (GPS) facility, policemen would be able to update the website on real-time basis, along with the latitude and longitude details of the victim, giving further edge to the website.”


Published in: on September 22, 2012 at 1:46 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

Kurla railway police crack down on fake TTEs

The Kurla government railway police busted a racket of a gang involved in looting the valuables of north-bound railway passengers going towards Bihar and UP by posing as TTEs (Train Ticket Examiners) and arrested a 19-year-old youth. However, his four associates managed to flee from the spot.

“ Mohammed Lalababu Sheikh, 19, was booked under sections 406 (Criminal breach of Trust) and 34 (Common intention) IPC on Friday and recovered 13 stolen suitcases full of new clothes, 14 mobiles and Rs4,000 from their rented room at Dharavi.” Said Shivaji Dhumal, senior police inspector of Kurla GRP station. Dhumal said that a manhunt has been launched to nab Sheikh’s four associates.

The gang members originally hail from Bihar and UP and were operating at CST, Dadar, LLT at Kurla and Bandra Terminus for the past two years,” said Dhumal.

Describing their modus operandi, DB Pable, inspector of Kurla GRP station said, “The gang members were well-versed in Bhojpuri and Hindi. They used to keep a watch on north-bound railway passengers carrying the heavy bag with them, at booking halls of any one of terminus. Then, they befriended with the passengers after talking to them in Bhojpuri and used to collect the information such as the destination of said passengers.”

To gain the confidence of the passengers, they used to tell unsuspecting passengers that a close relative was a TTE (Train Ticket Examiner) in the train and instead of wasting their valuable time at booking office queue, they (passengers) would get a ticket easily at their relatives office at Sion-Dharavi, where the number of their baggage was to be registered.

Later, they used to take passengers to Dharavi where a closed shop was portrayed as an office. Then, one of them asked the passenger to hand over the bags to one of their associates who decamped with the bags, said Pable.

Acting on the information, the Kurla GRP team conducted a raid in a small house at Gopinath chawl on 90 Feed Road at Dharavi on Friday morning and nabbed Sheikh.

Navi Mumbai resident, Gulbahar Ansari, 30, a gunman serving in a private security agency at Navi Mumbai said, “I was duped by the gang member at Kurla Terminus on Thursday and stole my single bore rifle, Rs9,000 and other goods collectively worth Rs25,000.” .


Published in: on September 22, 2012 at 1:43 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

Discounted fares make Maharaja Express more affordable

In a bid to make the most luxurious train in the world, Maharaja Express, affordable to domestic tourists, the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) has trimmed its itinerary and offered a discount for twin travellers.

Announcing four festive season trips during the current financial year, the IRCTC has offered a 50 per cent discount in the fare for the accompanying companion besides shortening the duration of two trips.

Earlier all trips were of eight-day and seven-night duration but now two of these packages have been reduced to four days and three nights, resulting in a price cut and an additional discount to make it more attractive.

Two of the Dussehra and Diwali trips of eight days each, commencing on October 20 and 27, have been named ‘Indian Panorama’ (Delhi-Jaipur-Ranthamobore-Agra-Gwalior-Orchha-Khajuraho-Varanasi-Lucknow-Delhi) and ‘Indian Splendour’ (Delhi-Agra-Ranthambore-Jaipur-Bikaner-Jodhpur-Udaipur-Balasinor-Mumbai).

Both come with the same price tag.

The two packages start at $5,560 per person in the deluxe cabin and the offer for two persons travelling together is $8,340, allowing a 50 per cent discount on the regular price of $11,120.

The shortened packages called ‘Treasures of India’ and ‘Gems of India,’ commencing and terminating in Delhi, providing an experience of Agra, Ranthambore and Jaipur have been priced at $ 3,580 per person in a deluxe cabin and, with the permitted discount, at $7,160 for two persons travelling together.

The package not only covers the cost of all meals, 24-hour valet service, sight-seeing and entrance fees, and on board paramedics, but also provides complimentary house wines, liquor and beer.

IRCTC has announced four festive season trips during the current financial year

‘Treasures of India’ and ‘Gems of India’ are priced at $ 3,580 per person


Railway ministry plans to set up National High Speed Rail Authority

he Indian Railways does a commendable job transporting an estimated 20 million people to the remotest parts of the country every day. Yet, modernisation eludes it even as nations like China and South Korea have stolen a march over us.

Indian Railways may have the most extensive network in the world, but its trains still run at speeds between 60 kmph to 130 kmph. Successive populist union rail ministers have turned down every attempt to raise fares, which would have helped upgrade the network and offer more comfort to commuters.

So far, the ministry has only proposed feasibility studies for high speed trains. The ministry of railways, in consultation with state governments, proposed high speed corridors between Delhi-Chandigarh-Amritsar, Pune- Mumbai-Ahmedabad, Hyderabad-Dornakal-Vijaywada-Chennai, Chennai-Bangalore-Coimbatore-Ernakulum, Howrah-Haldia and Delhi-Agra-Lucknow-Varanasi-Patna. The ministry also planned to set up a National High Speed Rail Authority for standard setting, implementing and monitoring these projects. The estimated cost of construction cost per km would be up to Rs 100 crore.

The Railways intends to run high-speed passenger trains at about 250 kmph on these routes.

While India’s ambitions are still on paper, Japan, which was completely devastated in world war II, introduced its first Bullet Train way back in 1964. The Shinkansen— as the Bullet Train is more popularly known all over Japan— revolutionised train travel when it took to the tracks, touching speeds of 210 kms an hour.

Today, it criss-crosses across Japan at speeds of upto 300 kms an hour. This correspondent was fortunate to travel on a bullet train some years ago. We were on our way to the city of Kitakyushu, a distance of 67.2 kms from Fukuoka. At precisely 12.59 pm, the Shinkansen starts its run. The urban landscape whizzes past the window at almost the same speed as a Boeing 737 taking off a runway. The scenery changes so swiftly, it is hard to believe a train can move so fast. At exactly 1.15 pm, our Shinkansen enters the Kokura station in Kitakyushu—a distance of 67.2 kms covered in just 16 minutes. It is akin to travelling from Churchgate station to Palghar (a little beyond Virar) in such little time.

Hopefully, someday in the distant future, a passenger will be able to travel between Mumbai and Ahmedabad in less than three hours.


Railways develop crash-resistant coaches

In the backdrop of train accidents that have occurred over the last few years, the Kapurthala-based Rail Coach Factory (RCF) has developed ‘crashworthy coaches’ that would keep casualties at a minimum in the event of an accident.

The coaches would have ‘crumble zones’ on both ends, specifically designed to absorb the impact of the crash. These zones, according to experts, would absorb the force of the impact substantially – leaving the passenger area unaffected.

Another set of “energy absorbers” have also been provided behind the couplers, which link the coaches.

The new coaches are also being fitted with couplers of a new design, which would lessen the discomfort whenever a train accelerates or decelerates, and absorb the impact if trains collide.

A prototype shell was developed and validated after being crash-tested at the Lucknow-based Research Design and Standards Organisation (RDSO).

A technical report, suggesting that crashworthy features be incorporated in all LHB-design coaches, will be forwarded by the RCF to the railway board soon.

“Once we receive the approval of the rail board, we will start work on incorporating this feature in all LHB coaches,” RCF general manager BN Rajashekhar said.

The German LHB-design technology incorporates “anti-climbing” features to prevent coaches from piling over one another in the event of an accident.

The Indian Railways plans to replace its entire fleet of 59,000 passenger coaches with the lightweight LHB-design stainless steel coaches.

With an annual installed capacity of 1,500 coaches, the RCF is India’s premier coach manufacturing factory. It has manufactured coaches for premier trains, including Rajdhanis, Shatabdis and Durantos — besides double-decker trains.


Walk on railway tracks, land in jail

Try walking on the railway tracks and you may stand a chance of being arrested and put behind the bars.

After witnessing 14 deaths on the tracks within a span of 48 hours (Saturday and Sunday), Eastern Railway (ER) has planned to clamp down on people crossing the tracks or walking along them. Under railway rules, such people are trespassers and may face a term of six months in jail and have to pay a fine of Rs 1,000.

Among those killed, 12 were in the Sealdah division and the remaining two in the Howrah division. Many of them were walking along the tracks while using their mobile phones, officials said.

“While eight people were killed on Saturday, six died on Sunday. Such deaths are unnecessary and hamper punctuality. After the matter gets reported, we can’t run trains on the affected track till the Government Railway Police (GRP) removes the body. The saddest part is that most incidents are reported close to stations where foot overbridges and underpasses exist. We have also launched an awareness campaign to stop people from using their mobile phones while crossing the tracks (even at level crossings), but there hasn’t been too much of an improvement. Now, we will have to be stricter,” said an official.

ER has launched another campaign where people will be warned of the consequences of walking along tracks. Even if they survive the trains, railway staff may haul them up and get them arrested. “If caught near foot overbridges or underpasses, the offenders will get no reprieve,” he added.

Suchitto Kumar Das, divisional railway manager, Sealdah, said, “This has become a major issue. When I took over recently, I was shocked to learn that five to six people are run over and killed on the tracks under the Sealdah Division everyday. Most of the accidents occur due to carelessness. People are so involved with their mobile phones that they can’t even hear the train horns. There is a tendency to not use the overbridges and underpasses and most cases occur near stations. A few cases do happen on the Park Circus – Ballygunge and Madhyamgram – Barasat – Birati sections where there are encroachments along the tracks. While some cases are unavoidable, we would like to prevent those that happen due to carelessness.”

Records available with the railways reveals that the ages of those who die in this manner range from teenage to the 70s. The large number of level crossing gates on the Sealdah Division may also be a reason why people prefer to cross the tracks. For the 700-odd km tracks on this division, there are 528 level crossing gates.