Railways look to solar power New Delhi station

In what could crown the New Delhi railway station as the first ‘green’ station in the city, the Delhi Division of Northern Railway is looking at the option of using solar energy to power the premises.

Under the pilot project, solar panel of 1 megawatt (MW) capacity will be installed in the non-utilised portion of the rooftop. Authorities highlighted the need to conserve energy and reduce the power bill of the station.

At present, New Delhi pays around Rs 1.5 crore as its monthly power bill and draws 5 MW electricity. “The solar panels will help reduce the dependence on the conventional source of power. We will install higher capacity solar panels in a phased manner,” Divisional Rail Manager A K Sachan said.

The panels will be installed on private public partnership. A private company will install the panels and the Railways will purchase the power from it on a fixed rate.

Solar panels will be installed above the roof of foot overbridges, terrace and other shelters of the station. “The private party will install and maintain the solar panels. The agreement would be for 5 to 10 years. The power tariff will be fixed so it benefits Railways and allows the concessionaire to recover initial investment,” Sachan said.

For the pilot project of 1 MW solar panel an expenditure of Rs 1.5 crore is expected.

The Railways will first have to invite bids to appoint a consultant to examine the modalities of the solar panels. The consultant will provide the technical assistance. “The consultant will study the load-bearing capacity of the rooftop to ascertain if pillars need to be strengthened. It will also check in the location where the maximum solar heat can be captured and the wind pressure,” another official said.

The consultant will be appointed by December-end and, based on the study, installation of solar panels would start next year, Sachan said.


Now, Central Railways to tweet train updates daily

Using the microblogging site, CR will send updates periodically to keep passengers informed about various details such as cancellations and availability of seats

The Central Railways (CR) have finally got with the times, and have decided to connect with the public in a medium more appropriate for the digital age. With a dedicated Twitter account all set to provide regular updates, commuters will now be able to access the latest information regarding train cancellations, availability of seats and availability of tatkal quota on their mobile phones through the site.

The service was started last week, and daily updates are being put up on the Twitter handle ‘@CSTM_railinfo’. Though the initiative has not received a great response so far (it had only 8 followers till last night), railway authorities are confident that they will get a positive response very soon. “People are not aware about this new initiative, but soon it will be followed by many and will be useful to passengers,” said a CR official.

Mukesh Nigam, divisional railway manager, CR, who has been following the initiative since the inception said that they have not advertised it as yet and Twitter users will come to know of the service through Twitter itself.

@CSTM_railinfo: The Twitter handle on which CR authorities will provide daily updates

“We are giving train updates like tatkal quota, megablocks, cancellations and accidents through our new Twitter account. This will facilitate passengers in getting their information with just a click. After we get a good response, we will provide more facilities in the future,” he said.

Toral Ahluwalia, a commuter from Jogeshwari said, “This is a fantastic initiative which has been started by the CR authorities. They should provide us with quick updates about the current situation, which will prove very useful for railway passengers.” Another passenger, Ashok Kumar said, “This should be followed up consistently and information has to be updated regularly. Many times in the past, a new service has been introduced with much excitement, only to be cancelled or disconnected later.”


Published in: on November 29, 2012 at 4:44 pm  Leave a Comment  
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AC double decker train on Delhi-Chandigarh route soon

To cater to the growing number of passengers between Delhi and Chandigarh, Railways has decided to start an AC double decker train between the two cities.

The 12-coach AC double decker train with fire alarm system is expected to be pressed into service by February next year, a senior Railway Ministry official said.

Besides, Railways is mulling to introduce electrical multiple units (EMU) train sets on Delhi-Chandigarh and Delhi-Amritsar routes to reduce the travel time between these cities, the official said.

Train sets are expected to run at a high speed of 130-150 km per hour, thus reducing the travel time.
The Railways will also invite fresh tender for conducting pre-feasibility study of the 450-km long Delhi-Chandigarh- Amritsar high speed train, he said.

New Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal represents the Chandigarh constituency.
“The decision to adopt train sets technology was announced in the 2012-13 Railway Budget. We are planning to introduce it on Delhi-Chandigarh and Delhi-Amritsar routes and a decision to this effect is likely to be taken soon,” he said.

AC double decker with improved passenger-friendly design and capacity of 120 passengers per coach will run at 110 km per hour speed, he said.

“The Rail Coach Factory (RCF) at Kapurthala has been asked to expedite manufacturing of double decker coaches to meet the February target, and Northern Railway is working out the time schedule for introducing the AC double decker train service between Delhi and Chandigarh,” he said.

Indigenously designed, developed and manufactured at RCF Kapurthala, the air-conditioned double decker train was introduced for the first time between Howrah and Dhanbad followed by Delhi-Jaipur and Ahmedabad-Mumbai routes.

There will be two more AC double decker trains for Habibganj-Indore and Chennai-Bangalore routes in the near future, the official said.

Railways has decided to equip all new double decker coaches with automatic smoke detector systems to prevent fire incidents.


Published in: on November 29, 2012 at 4:38 pm  Leave a Comment  
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How Indian Railways plans to run bullet trains!

The Indian Railways has joined hands with China for cooperation in developing high-speed rail corridors in selected routes in the country.

Besides, Railways will also seek Chinese expertise in carrying out heavy haulage in dedicated freight corridors and developing stations.

“We signed a MoU with China for mutual cooperation in rail sector,” said a senior Railway Ministry official, adding, “The agreement will remain in force for five years.”

Chairman Railway Board Vinay Mittal and China’s Vice- Minister of Railways Wang Zhigue signed the agreement. A MoU was signed with China on January 14, 2008 which has since expired.

Now an Infrastructure Working Group will be constituted under the India-China Strategic Economic Dialogue to work out details for the future cooperation in the rail sector, the official said.

Railways has identified seven routes for exploring possibilities of running high-speed trains known as bullet trains at a speed of about 300 km per hour.

Pre-feasibility study has been carried out for five corridors, said the official.Japan is also keen to provide its technology to Railways in high speed rail corridors.

Railways plans to take up the proposed Mumbai-Ahmedabad high-speed rail corridor on a priority basis as the government has given the in-principle clearance to the project.

It is estimated to cost about Rs 60,000 cr to run train at 300 km per hour speed in the proposed corridor.


Published in: on November 29, 2012 at 4:36 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Private ports get flexibility to attract investments for rail links

Ports with private investment such as Dhamra, Dighi, Rewas, Jaigarh, Astranga and Hazira, which had approached the Railways with proposals worth Rs 3,800 crore to build last mile rail links, now have some investment models to choose from.

This follows a Cabinet nod to the Indian Railways for five broad models.

But, there’s a hurdle to be crossed, as the concession agreement of these proposals first needs to be finalised.

For the last few years, non-finalisation of a broad policy framework and concession agreement delayed the Railways’ plan to attract private investments to build last mile rail links.

At present, the Railways has some functional rail link projects with private investments to connect ports such as Pipavav and Mundra. Now, it is looking at different implementation models for each project. Apart from this, the Cabinet nod will broadly help in two-three ways. In case of the three non-BOT (build-operate-transfer) models, the Railway Board can now take decisions, instead of seeking Cabinet approval for each project. The policy also addresses investor concerns on earlier policies. But, it also has conditions that could prevent windfall gains for investors.

Incidentally, this policy is the third version of two earlier ones on bringing in investments to rail infrastructure — rail infrastructure for industry and rail connectivity to coal and iron ore — which were held up due to concerns from investors and other ministries.

The policy contains five models — non-Government Railway, joint venture with equity participation by Railways, capacity augmentation through funding by customers, BOT and BOT (annuity) model. The latter two (BOT and BOT annuity) will follow the existing procedure laid down by the Finance Ministry through the public-private partnership appraisal committee route.


Land ownership of the rail link can vary from a full private rail (line built on land acquired and owned by private party) to joint venture and customer-funded model (where Railways can help in land acquisition on the cost of joint venture, but the ownership will remain with the Railways).

There is a relaxation in case of land ownership for a private Railway line, where investors had raised issues. Earlier, Railways had said that the private land would be transferred to it after 30 years . In the latest policy, Railways has tried to implement some lessons from earlier projects. To recoup returns in case of a private rail link, investors will receive a part of the freight revenues generated on a proportional basis. But, the private rail link owner will have to share 5 per cent of its revenue with the Railways.

In case of joint ventures, the revenues are linked to traffic and concession period. The concession period could vary from 25-35 years based on actual traffic realisation against the projected traffic. PSUs such as Coal India and SAIL may take this route.

For customer-funded projects, there will be a freight rebate of up to seven per cent and a dividend return for the investor, the rate of which will be equal to what Railways pays to Government.


Published in: on November 28, 2012 at 5:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

Railways’ institute to impart accounting training

Railways is going to set up its own training institute for imparting training and improving finance and accounting skills among its officials.

Railways will set up an Indian Railway Institute of Financial Management (IRIFM) at Secunderabad to train its officials in accounting and finance.

The state-run transporter will also start a specialized programme for deputing middle-level finance officers abroad for training in accounts and finance.

Announcing the decision on the occasion of the Indian Railway Account Services (IRAS) day, Vijaya Kanth, financial commissioner of railways, asked IRAS officers to examine their role in public service that is meant to be efficient and effective with integrity.

She exhorted the officers to improve their skills which should keep pace with developments outside the finance world.


Railways needs a bug to keep toilets clean

A few years ago, a scientist from Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) visited India’s research outpost in Antarctica. Fascinated by a strain of bacteria, psychrophiles, that ingest human waste and convert it to odourless water at subzero temperatures, he brought the bacteria with him to India. Scientists at DRDO used it to develop bio-toilets.

Bio-toilets were tested before being adopted by the military, which now uses them in the Siachen heights.

Around the same time, Indian Railways was being roundly criticised for creating an environmental hazard by discharging toilet waste on tracks. The environment ministry was unhappy with trains polluting lakes and rivers, as studies showed that trains crossed a large number of water bodies.
Indian Railways and DRDO thus came together to develop bio-toilets for trains. The railways had experimented with other options at considerable expense, but they had all failed.

“Somebody suggested that anti-corrosion paint was the best option to prevent corrosion of tracks and undercarriages of coaches,” said a Southern Railway official. “We spent crores on paints but they made no difference to the corrosion rate. Undercarriages needed to be replaced every four years as earlier. An official then proposed a controlled discharge.”

The controlled discharge toilet used a sophisticated system that used GPS. It collected waste in a box and discharged it automatically when a train picked up speed. The GPS system monitors if the train is over a water body or at a railway station to prevent polluting water bodies and keep terminals clean. It was considered an interim arrangement till a permanent solution was found.

“It looked good on paper but the GPS system did not work well,” the Southern Railway official said. “The toilet system often got jammed by bottles and garbage that travellers dumped in the commodes. It created a problem for rail yard workers who had to pry open toilet boxes and empty the waste into pit lines. The yards soon got polluted and posed a serious health hazard to employees.”

Controlled discharge toilets were also expensive, costing around 6 lakh per piece. Malfunctioning toilets threatened to derail train schedules especially at large terminals like Chennai, where more than 30 rakes have to be cleaned and overhauled every day. Railway staff have just six hours to make sure a rake is fit to be used. It was not possible to spend additional time to set right faulty toilets.

The railways then experimented with zero discharge toilets. They were developed by IIT-Kanpur and Research Design and Standards Organisation (RDSO) to segregate solid waste and liquid waste, recycling the liquid waste to be used for flushing. Solid waste was treated with anaerobic bacteria and stored in a box that was emptied at stations or yards. This toilet was found to be successful on a long-distance train. But sources said zero discharge toilets need more tests. “The systems provided varied results during trials,” a railway official said. “Removing solid waste from tanks was a problem. Vacuum machines are prone to technical glitches.”

Officials of RDSO had suggested in 2005 that railways switch over to vacuum toilets, which are used extensively in the West, for premium services. But it realised they would require expensive support infrastructure at stations or yards.

“We tried different options including zero discharge toilets and vacuum toilets,” said Indrajit Singh, executive director of RDSO. Railways is now cautious. “We have to consider what passengers feel about a certain type of toilet. On average, more than 80 people use three Indian style toilets in each coach of a train in less than 20 hours,” another official said. “Tests have demonstrated that bio-toilets can be used by a large number of people. We are continuing tests to see if they have any shortcomings and to see if there is any change in the behaviour of the bacteria,” an official said.

Bio-toilet treats waste with multiple levels of bacteria,
converts it to water and gas
Bacteria ingests fecal matter, turns it into slurry
When toilet is flushed,
treated waste flows to where it is converted into water and disinfected with chlorine
Water and gas goes to the lowest tray where it is filtered and expelled when the train is travelling at 30kmph
THE GOOD | Converts waste to water that, when expelled, does not corrode tracks
THE BAD | Bacteria may not work if passengers chucks things in toilets. If toilets are overused, bacteria will not be able to convert all the waste into water and gas ZERO DISCHARGE
Waste not dropped on tracks. Toilets segregate solid and liquid waste with solidliquid separators and store it in tanks. Liquid waste recycled for flushing
Separator does not need
power to operate
Microbials added to prevent decomposition. Can be stored for 10 days before being removed with vacuum machine
Liquid filtered twice to remove sediments, to tank in undercarriage of coaches, used to flush toilets
THE GOOD | Does not discharge on tracks, prevents corrosion. Water reused to flush, keep toilets clean. Toilet does not get clogged by bottles and garbage
THE BAD | Worked well during trials, but more tests needed.


Carrier in talks with Railways for refrigerated wagons

Carrier Transicold, the transport refrigeration segment of USD 58 billion United Technologies, is in talks with Indian Railways to introduce refrigerated wagons for perishable goods transportation, a top official of Carrier Air-conditioning and Refrigeration Ltd said.’

The cold-chain market is expected to get a big boost with allowing foreign direct investment into retail, said Pankaj Mehta, country head and assistant director, Carrier Transicold division.

Carrier Transicold is a division of Carrier Air-conditioning and Refrigeration Ltd in India.

“We are in discussions with Railways for getting into refrigerated wagons. We hope that will also materialise. As of now railways do not offer such service,” Mehta told PTI.

“It may be finalised very soon. The government is pushing all these initiatives. We are also working with several ministries,” he added without telling when the issue will be finalised.

According to him, in India fruits and vegetables and meat and pharma products are moved, mostly in the frozen condition. But now as consumption patterns are changing and with urbanisation going up, there is an increased use of refrigerated vehicles for moving products such as milk, ready to use food items.

“About 104 million tonnes perishable produce is moved in India every year. However, only 4 million tonnes is transported in refrigerated vehicles while 100 million tonnes is moved in normal vehicles,” he said.

Mehta said Carrier is in the process of introducing multi-model containers which can be put on trains, trailers and cargo ships also. These containers are available in the rest of the world.

He hoped that with the government allowing FDI in retail, the consignment sizes will go up and thereby transportation cost will be reduced.

According to industry reports, approximately 30 per cent of food produce is wasted due to inefficient methods of storage, handling and transportation.


Published in: on November 28, 2012 at 4:38 pm  Leave a Comment  

Platform set for railway stations facelift

The Indian Railways will revive its ambitious programme of modernising railway stations through public private participation (PPP) route. Every new incumbent at the Rail Bhavan since the past five terms has not been able to achieve the feat and none have been successful in bringing the proposed project even to the drawing board stage.

In the Rail Budget for 2012, the then Railways Minister, Dinesh Trivedi mooted the same plan but it met with little success. The present incumbent Pawan Kumar Bansal, in his recently held press conference, reiterated that a Railway Stations Development Corporation will be launched to renovate and redevelop five railway stations as pilot project.

“We have identified five stations and those will be modernised as a part of the pilot project, we will start the process afresh,” Railway Board Chairman, Vinay Mittal told Express.

According to the plan, the five railway stations that will see redevelopment include Pune, Chandigarh, Bijwasan in Delhi, Habibganj in Bhopal and Amritsar.

The proposed corporation will be a special purpose vehicle (SPV) with equity participation of Ircon International Limited, a government company under the Ministry of Railways and Rail Land Development Authority, a statutory authority under the Ministry of Indian Railways.

“The chairman-cum-managing director for the proposed corporation has already been identified and the process of formalising the corporation, its finer mandate has already been put in place so that the corporation can start its work,” a senior Railway official said requesting anonymity.

The corporation will look at how investments can be brought in for the development of railway stations across the country, which if not through the PPP route could also taken up by sponsors who could invest for development of those railway stations that are in dire need of a face lift.

The corporation, sources said, would also look at ways of revenue maximisation from non-core business of the Indian Railways.

The Railways had earlier shortlisted 35 such stations for renovation and redevelopment but the project had to be shelved after a particular company had cornered 34 of the tenders for modernisation, the official informed.

The Indian Railways has over 7,500 stations across the country. Over 11,000 passenger trains and over 6,000 goods trains crisscross the nation every day.

Sources said, once the stations are modernised they will have the potential of generating crores by way of non-core revenues. “At present, we are not fully harnessing the revenue generating potential of the Indian railway station, while the Delhi Airport alone generates Rs 100 crore per annum by way of advertising revenues and the railway stations put together are not even a fraction of that,” he added.


India looks to China to put high-speed trains on track

Aiming to correct trade imbalances with China, India has identified railways as a major thrust area to engage the world’s second largest economy at the bilateral Strategic Economic Dialogue starting on Monday.

The Railways of the two countries are expected to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) which will concentrate on three specific areas — high-speed trains, station development and heavy haulage. This will be the second round of talks after the inaugural session in Beijing this year.

For China, a deal with India’s Railways could not have been better timed. Indian Railways has already approved six high-speed rail corridors for various parts of the country. With the feasibility study for the first one, between Ahmedabad and Mumbai, already in, India has been on the lookout for global technology leaders in high-speed railways for cooperation.

Unlike others like Japan and France, China is a relatively new entrant in the world of bullet trains, starting its operations only in 2007. But within a few years, it has developed the world’s largest bullet train network. India needs the technical know-how on laying dedicated tracks and shopping for rakes.

India is also exploring Chinese technology on heavy haulage in dedicated freight corridors.

With active cooperation in railways, India wants to try out a new model of bilateral trade engagement with China with the aim to make the trade size swell to around $100 bn in the next few years.

While there is heavy Chinese presence in the power sector as well, Chinese cooperation in railways is being thought as “safer” as the sector is completely controlled by the government.

The two neighbours are expected to sign four MOUs in all — on IT, railways, energy efficiency standards and planning. The Planning Commissions of the two sides will also sign an MOU for joint studies.


Published in: on November 28, 2012 at 4:18 pm  Leave a Comment  
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