50 made-in-India railway engines to chug into Pak

After months of dilly-dallying, India has finally agreed to sell and lease out its locomotives to Pakistan, thus helping the neighbouring country restart its defunct train services.

In the first-of-its-kind deal, the Indian Railways will deliver 50 refurbished American Locomotive
Company (ALCO) technology locos at an estimated cost of Rs. 350 crore.

Another set of 50 new locos of a higher horsepower (3000-3500) will also be leased out. Lease charges of Indian locomotives work out to Rs. 900 per hour or Rs. 21,600 per day.

Pakistan is expected to get delivery of the first instalment of 10 refurbished engines of 2,000-2,600 horsepower capacity sometime next year.

The proposed arrangement will include a liberalised visa regime for Indian engineers who will be required to visit Pakistan for training purposes.

While yearly maintenance of engines is proposed to be done at the Indian Railways shed at Ludhiana, the Pakistan government has agreed to ramp up facilities at its railway shed at Mughalpura near Lahore.

Running 19,000 trains over a 54,000-kilometre network each day, the Indian Railways is hugely stressed for train engines.

“But the production units will churn out train engines in bigger numbers in the coming years. Issues with Pakistan have now been sorted out. We will shortly start working on the modifications and fix up the used locos to be delivered to Pakistan,” officials said.

With 137 of its fleet of 494 locos dysfunctional, train operations in Pakistan have virtually collapsed and annual losses worth a whopping R25 billion have been reported. In the last four years, the Pakistan government has provided Rs. 93 billion subsidy to its railways department, Rs. 32 billion as assistance for development projects and Rs. 14 billion as overdraft from the State Bank of Pakistan, railways minister Ghulam Ahmed Bilour said recently.


Joshi pushes for private investment to boost railway revenue

Railways minister C P Joshi seems to be pushing UPA’s reforms agenda, including encouraging private investment to revive the cash-strapped national transporter, in a big way.

The much-touted high-speed trains are back on the agenda amid indications that a pact with Spain will be signed on Friday to explore the possibilities of introducing bullet trains along with improvement of rail safety measures.

Sources said that Railway Board made a presentation before Joshi on the scope of starting public-private-partnership (PPP) in rail projects, particularly in laying of railway tracks.

In its presentation, the Board has outlined that the priority areas can be laying tracks for port connectivity and new tracks for better coal linkage.

The earlier proposal on promoting PPP in rail projects — conceived during Mukul Roy’s tenure — was sent to Joshi after the ministry came back to the Congress’s kitty.

An official said that Joshi wanted to get a clear picture of how the Board planned to push PPP model in this sector.

Sources said this can be the beginning of railways preparing a note to seek Cabinet nod on policy issues to initiate a few pilot projects under PPP mode.


Richard Branson keen to invest in Indian Railways

Virgin Group’s Sir Richard Branson – currently in India to launch Virgin Atlantic’s service on the Mumbai-London route – is toying with the idea of investing in high speed passenger services of the Indian Railways.

On Thursday evening, Branson said he would certainly like to invest in high speed passenger services of Indian Railways if there were opportunities, while replying to a Business Line query on the issue.

The Indian Railways is studying the feasibility of attracting private investment for high-speed trains for six routes and has been studying various options of attracting funding.

The six rail routes are: Pune-Mumbai-Ahmedabad, Delhi-Agra-Lucknow- Varanasi-Patna, Hyderabad-Dornakal-Vijayawada-Chennai, Chennai-Bangalore-Coimbatore-Ernakulam, Delhi-Chandigarh-Amritsar and Howrah-Haldia.

Sharp-witted Branson also recalled how his first brush with the idea of investing in railways came about. “It is funny. My foray into British Rail scene was after a journalist asked me whether I would enter the railways. The day after I saw the news flashed in the media. It was then that I found the numbers of British Rail authorities and started calling them!,” he said.

Incidentally, Virgin Rail – which has a 15-year train operating licence in the UK where rail services are privatised – has moved Court after having lost the chance to another bidder to renew the licence in a competitive bidding process.

The aviation-to-trains to entertainment Group has a presence in India through aviation, telecom (Virgin Mobile India is a mobile virtual network operator and uses the network of Tata Teleservices), and FM radio.

Branson was tight-lipped about immediate investment plans in the Indian aviation sector. While welcoming the Government move to relax foreign direct investment rules in domestic aviation, he said it would take a “brave man” to invest in the country’s aviation sector in the backdrop of “bleeding airlines”.


Golden Chariot charts new route to stay afloat

Loss-making luxury train, The Golden Chariot (TGC), is charting new avenues to keep itself afloat.

Come November, a group of 50 students, faculty and alumni of Stanford University, California, will hold two lectures and a conference during the seven-day trip on ‘Pride of South’ route on the Bangalore-Goa stretch.

The train is also expected to host one of the “big fat Indian weddings” on board next year. Group series bookings are also being promoted, particularly targeting international universities.

M Srinivas, Project Director, TGC, told the Deccan Herald that TGC was compelled to shift gears, if it had to break even at least by its eighth year of operation.

TGC’s occupancy rate during 2008-09 was 24 per cent; 28 per cent during 2009-10, 37 per cent during 2010-11 and 36 per cent during 2011-12.

The train which has never run to its full capacity, received a maximum number of bookings this February with 70 passengers.

Srinivas said TGC had incurred a loss of Rs 10.76 crore in the last four years, despite launching another product – Southern Splendour, in March 2010.

While discussions have already been held with leading travel agency — Cox and Kings India Ltd — to promote the group series bookings, the TGC has also sold the “wedding on board” concept to the agency, which is said to be equally keen on the idea.

“We are sure to have a grand wedding on board next year. Cox and Kings has already started branding the concept. As part of the group series bookings, we have also tied up with the Great Rail Journeys, UK, who are specialists in escorted holidays by train.
The agency has made bookings for one whole year between 2013 and 2014. About 44 cabins have already been booked for January,” he said, adding that with these new strategies, TGC was envisioning a turn around in its business.

Railways blamed

Srinivas said the TGC would have made some profits if not for the “obstinacy” of the Indian Railways. He said before the launch of the train in 2007, the Railways backtracked from the revenue sharing model and started slapping haulage charges.

“If we were to operate on a revenue sharing basis (50:50), we would have been earning profits steadily. But the Railways has burdened us with heavy haulage charges which is seriously impacting operations of the TGC,” he said.

However, with three luxury trains — Palace on Wheels, Deccan Odyssey and TGC — building pressure on the Railways, it has agreed to give rebate on the haulage charges for the next three years.

Accordingly, the haulage burden on TGC will come down to Rs 27 lakh per trip from Rs 42 lakh a trip. Srinivas said this could only bring a temporary relief.

He said for the success of TGS as a tourism project, the government should constitute an independent authority similar to the Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited.

He said a dedicated marketing fund or budget and a professional management were other prerequisites. Presently only three to four people are managing operations, marketing, accounts, and human resources, a responsibility to be shared by at least 15 people, Srinivas pointed out.


Published in: on October 27, 2012 at 6:42 am  Leave a Comment  
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Pay for bed-rolls at counters now

Rail passengers will now be given the option of availing of bed-rolls while booking tickets for the Garib Rath train and pay the requisite charges at the booking counter itself. A similar provision will be made for passengers booking tickets through Internet, said a Railway notification.

At present, bed-rolls are supplied to passengers on demand and charges are collected separately from them.


Published in: on October 27, 2012 at 6:38 am  Leave a Comment  
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Branson on new track, eyes Railways’ high-speed service

Virgin Group’s Sir Richard Branson may be toying with the idea of investing in high-speed passenger services of the Indian Railways.

In India to relaunch Virgin Atlantic’s airlines service on Mumbai-London route, Branson said that he would certainly like to invest in the high-speed passenger services of the Railways if there were opportunities, when asked by Business Line if he would consider expanding Virgin’s exposure to rail as in the UK.

The timing could not be more perfect. The Railways is studying the feasibility of attracting private investments including for high-speed trains on six routes.

One of the options is on the lines of the UK rail market where the infrastructure ownership stays with the Indian Railways and there are train operating companies.

The six rail routes are: Pune-Mumbai-Ahmedabad, Delhi-Agra-Lucknow–Varanasi-Patna, Hyderabad-Dornakal-Vijayawada-Chennai, Chennai-Bangalore-Coimbatore-Ernakulam, Delhi-Chandigarh-Amritsar and Howrah-Haldia.

The Railways has also decided to sign an agreement with Spain for exploring the possibility of introducing bullet train service and improvement of train safety.

Branson recalled how the idea of investing in the rail sector came. “It is funny. My foray into British Rail scene was after a journalist asked me whether I would enter the railways.

“The day after I saw the news flashed in the media. It was then that I found the numbers of British Rail authorities and started calling them,” he said.

Virgin Rail — which has a 15-year train operating licence in the UK where rail services are privatised — has moved court as outbid when the licence came up for renewal.

The aviation-to-trains-to-entertainment group has a presence in India through aviation, telecom (Virgin Mobile India uses the network of Tata Teleservices), and FM radio.

Asked if Virgin Group had observed an inter-modal shift from air-to-rail given that the company had exposure in both aviation and railway sector, Branson said: “On the London-Manchester route, there has been a 90 per cent shift to rail sector from airlines.” For the long-term, he would like to stay invested in the rail business.

Branson was tight-lipped about specific, immediate investment plans in the Indian aviation sector.

While welcoming the Government’s move to relax foreign direct investment rules in domestic aviation, he said it would take a “brave man” to invest in the country’s aviation sector in the backdrop of “bleeding airlines”.


Railways signs pact with Spain on high speed trains

The railways on Friday signed an agreement with Spain to promote cooperation and information exchange in the areas of bullet trains, enhancing speed of passenger trains on existing lines and improving safety of train operations.

The MoU was signed by railway minister C P Joshi and Spanish minister of public works and transport Ana Pastor Julian for technical cooperation in the rail sector that includes modernization of rolling stock among others.

Railways has announced seven high-speed corridors and has prepared a Cabinet note to set up a high-speed rail authority to run trains at 300 km/hour.


BG locos converted to cape gauge for first time

For the first time, Golden Rock Railway Workshop has converted two in-service broad gauge diesel locomotives to cape gauge for export to Mozambique railways soon.

A host of modifications and additional features have been incorporated as part of the conversion work in the two engines to suit the operational requirement of Mozambique railways.

The RITES, a Government of India Enterprise under the aegis of Ministry of Railways, had entrusted the cape gauge conversion work to Golden Rock Railway Workshop after purchasing two in-service BG diesel engines from Southern Railway.

The cape gauge conversion works are in the final stage in the two locomotives which would be exported to the African nation through RITES in the second week of November.

Each of the two BG engines with 1,676 mm gauge distance was converted to cape gauge with 1,067 mm gauge distance to suit the Mozambique railway network.

The other modifications incorporated to improve the horse power of the locos include provision of modified cam shafts, upgraded fuel injection pump and larger displacement of turbo super charger of ABB make.

The horsepower of one of the loco has been upgraded from 2,400 HP to 3,100 HP, while it has been upgraded from 1,800 HP to 2,400 HP in the other.

The excitation systems of both locos have been converted from electronic type to micro processor controlled system. Similarly, the engine governing system has been changed from electro-mechanical type to micro processor based.

Provision of plate type lube oil cooler to improve the cooling efficiency of lube oil system, cyclonic type air filtration system, panel mounted brake system and installation of maintenance free nickel cadmium battery are among the other additional features incorporated in the two engines.

One of the cape gauge loco has an air conditioned cabin.

Though the railway workshop had converted several metre gauge diesel engines to cape gauge and exported them to Mozambique and Sudan, this is the first time that the organisation had converted BG engines to cape gauge for export, say officials here.

The workshop had converted 34 in-service MG engines to cape gauge and exported them to Mozambique and Sudan.

In addition to this, it had exported 133 MG locos to countries, including Malaysia, Tanzania, Sudan and Benin over the years through RITES and IRCON, another government company.

Engaged in a myriad of activities, the over 80-year-old workshop also manufactures steam locomotives for Nilgiri Mountain Railway and container wagons for Container Corporation of India.

Locos to Mynamar

The RITES had supplied to the workshop four more in-service MG diesel locomotives for export to Myanmar. The six locomotives already supplied to Myanmar were working satisfactorily, the officials said.


Rs 200-cr locomotive plant to be set up in Sehore

An Indo-US joint venture firm has announced to set up the first diesel locomotive plant to manufacture environment-friendly and fuel-efficient railway engines at Sherpur village in the adjoining district of Sehore.

The firm will invest over Rs 200 crore for the project. Disclosing it to the media persons the Managing Director of the Daulatram Engineering Services Pvt Ltd CP Sharma said his firm had entered into a partnership with the US-based National Railway Equipment Company (NREC) to star the pioneer project in the state.

According to him, it was the first such example in which a private firm was given the permission in the county to manufacture diesel locomotive.

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Industries Minister Kailash Vijawrgiya will lay the foundation stone for the ambitious project at Sherpur village on Saturday, Sharma said.

The plant will be set up in a 50 acre land already acquired by the company. “The joint venture has already bagged the order from Indian Railways and Chennai Metro to manufacture two such engines for them. These are currently being manufactured jointly by the company along with Diesel Locomotive Modernisation Works in Patiala,” he said. These two locomotives will be rolled by January next from the Patiala unit, Sharma said.

The next five locomotives will be rolled out from the new facility in next 18 months.


Indian Railways’ need for speed

There are multiple agencies working towards building high-speed rail corridors and the Railway Ministry is doing pre-feasibility studies.

That India needs high-speed rail systems — trains running at approximately 250-350 km per hour-speed is known. But, it would augur well for different agencies of the Government to identify one dense stretch, pool in all efforts to implement such a project fast. The lessons from this stretch could be applied to some other stretches.


At present, there are multiple agencies working towards building high-speed rail corridors. The Railway Ministry is doing pre-feasibility studies for six stretches across the country. Then there are some State Governments which are doing parallel exercises for running high-speed trains. The Kerala Government has commissioned a pre-feasibility study for high-speed rail (HSR) along the West coast of Kerala — Thiruvananthapuram-Kasargod. Similarly, the Haryana Government is evaluating running of high-speed trains on the Delhi-Sonepat-Panipat route.


The costs involved are huge. The Thiruvananthapuram-Ernakulam link is expected to cost in the range of Rs 40,000 crore. Similarly, the Pune-Mumbai-Ahmedabad corridor is expected to cost more than Rs 50,000 crore. How will they be funded?

In this context, it is important to note that for the Railway Ministry proposals, even the cost of the pre-feasibility studies is being shared with the various State Governments, who are likely to benefit.

Given such costs, all implementing agencies have admitted that these projects will have to be taken in public-private partnership (PPP) mode with private participation. The exact model of PPP will have to be evaluated and decided. That process itself could take four years at the minimum — going by the time taken by the Government to decide such issues for railways’ factories and highways in India.

Should the whole project be given out to a consortium on design-build-finance-operate-transfer basis? Or should the project be unbundled — by breaking it up into station management, train operating companies — with the network being owned and managed by another agency?

“Which agency should run the trains? Who should then build and maintain the infrastructure,” asked Mr V. K. Dutt, former additional Member (Electrical), Indian Railways’, while speaking at a seminar on high-speed trains, jointly organised by the Institution of Engineers (India) – Delhi State Centre, IET (UK) – Delhi Local Network and Institution of Railway Electrical Engineers (IREE).


Then there are some technical issues. Should the new lines be made interoperable with the current system? Simply put, should the new rolling stock be such that they can move on the existing railway lines, something that France did? This is desirable because it would allow the new train sets to access much deeper areas on the existing network.

But this requires a lot of extra time and money because the existing railway lines and signalling systems have to be upgraded. It also means that the new network has to be built on a broad gauge — globally, the railway lines and rolling stock are on standard gauge.

Many experts who are outside the Indian Railways’ system per se, favour a non-interoperable standard gauge network.

The views of DMRC, which is doing the study for the Kerala Government, are well known. They are all for standard gauge — Mr E. Sreedharan has publicly stated his disappointment with the Indian Railways for not allowing the initial Delhi Metro network to be built on broad gauge. But Indian Railways has traditionally been quite rigid on this issue, insisting on interoperability.

What should be the proposed revenue box model? What share of the revenue can be taken out by monetising land? Who should be made to pay for the development — there have been examples like Manchester, where all beneficiaries — corporates and users — were made to share the cost.


Pricing of tickets is another issue. The high-speed trains — while requiring Government support — cannot be allowed to become a tool for populist measures.

“Do you want to target the aam admi (common man)? TGV — the high-speed train of French Railways — is approximately 20-30 per cent cheaper than some other European railways running high-speed trains. It enjoys an 80 per cent load factor,” says Mr Michel Testard, Indian Business Development Consultant to the SNCF (French Railways).

Mr Testard suggests: “Target a stretch — which is on an even terrain — that connects two cities separated by a distance of 300 km or so; and each city should have a population of at least 10 million.” The even terrain is important because of the cost implications — the cost of building one km of railway line could double in difficult terrain, such as mountainous region or those with water bodies.

These are just some key questions that have to be addressed before the projects start getting implemented. After all, it took almost 30-35 years for Delhi to get its metro system, after it was first proposed in 1972-75.