City railway station gets hi-tech kiosk

The implementation of a new online video enquiry kiosk on platform number 8 at Bangalore Railway Station seem to be a welcome sign for passengers. With this new online machine, passengers get to interact live with the customer care service executives.

The machine has been designed in three languages – English, Kannada and Hindi to help passengers get every possible information.

N Dhanraj, a senior official said, “This kiosk has been running on a trial and error basis from last three months. Passengers who walk into the railway station will be able to get details like platform, coach number, arrival and departure time, PNR status and other information at a click.”

For Basavaraj, a passenger, the new system is really effective. “This is the first time, I was interacting with the customer care personnel. It was very helpful. Any layman can get the information as they are providing details in three different languages. The machine can be of really good use if the Railway authorities create awareness among passengers so that it can be implemented effectively. It is very customer-friendly.”

Based on the feedback, the information system will be upgraded.

Published in: on November 28, 2012 at 4:15 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Chennai-Pondy coastal railway line may be built by private companies

The east coast railway line from Chennai to Puducherry and Cuddalore, via Mamallapuram, may now be built with private participation. The railway ministry has included the . 523 crore project on a list of 37 projects that could be handed over to private firms.

The project — part of the proposed Chennai-Kanyakumari coastal line — has been approved by the railway board to provide a link to fast developing areas along the Old Mahabalipuram Road (OMR).

The 179km line, to be laid between OMR and the East Coast Road, is expected to connect Sholinganallur, Kovalam, Tiruporur, Mamallapuram, Kalpakkam, Koovathur, Cheyyur, Marakkanam, Kunimedu, Kuiyilappalayam, Jipmer in Puducherry, Bahour, Varakalpattu, Tirupadipuliyur and Cuddalore Fort.

“As of now, railways is doing the project but may want to consider different options because of the huge cost involved and the need to finish it fast,” said a senior Southern Railway official. The new line is to be taken up as a “socially desirable” project and the railways has not mentioned any rate of return for the investor. Companies come in where govt funds run dry.

The railway line was sanctioned in the supplementary budget of 2007, but only 26 crore was sanctioned in subsequent years for land survey, location survey and other preliminary works. Meanwhile, the cost escalated from 523 crore to 800 crore. The final location survey was done in 2011.
“Going by the rate at which the ministry is able to sanction funds the line will take more than 10 years to complete. This is the reason the railway board is looking at different options, including privatisation of the works. The board is yet to finalise the model in which the project will be taken up,” he added.

To execute such projects, a cost sharing-freight rebate model, full contribution model, under-a-special-purpose vehicle model and privateline model have been proposed. The terms and conditions say the land will be acquired and owned by railways.

The ministry has mooted private participation for new lines, gauge conversion, doubling and to lay third line because several projects are being delayed due to slow sanctioning of money. Every project may not get full funds because money will have to be allocatedfor all projectsbeing carried out in the country.

IRCTC has new pilgrimage packages

As part of its tourism initiatives, the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) will operate two special pilgrimage tour packages to Tirupati and Sabarimala.

The rail tour package to Tirupati with daily departures is scheduled to start from Mysore on November 26. It will be a three-day, two-night trip that costs Rs 1,576 per person. IRCTC said the pilgrims can board the train from Mysore and Bangalore City Railway stations.

Of the two packages planned for Sabarimala, the first tour is scheduled to depart from Bangalore City railway station on November 25. The duration of the package is four days, three nights and the package cost per person is Rs 2,386. The second trip starts on November 28 and is for five days and four nights, which will cost Rs 3,249 per person.

Apart from these packages, IRCTC is also operating rail tour packages to Shirdi on a daily basis and to Goa, Kerala and Hampi on weekly basis.

Published in: on November 25, 2012 at 12:56 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.

Matheran toy train will operate till 9pm

If you’ve taken even a few weekend trips away from the city, chances are you’ve been on the Neral-Aman Lodge-Matheran toy train. Now, the 105-year-old train chugs along over 21 kilometres of ghats will get a makeover. The Central Railway (CR) is taking different measures to sustain the service that has been running into losses. These include strengthening the tracks, extending services to later in the evening and renovating the railway station. Currently, the railways incur an annual expense of Rs. 16 crore in maintaining and operating the diesel locomotives. The fare box collection is only Rs. 30-40lakh.

“It is impossible to operate the services with such a high investment and such low returns. Therefore, we will try different ways to increase the revenue. We are also working on reducing the cost of operations by making technical improvements,” said Subodh Jain, general manager, CR.

The railways are trying to increase the speed and capacity of service by adding more coaches and a rear engine to the existing train. Currently, a five-coach train runs along the Neral-Matheran stretch. The administration is planning to extend this to eight coaches.

In addition, the plans of starting services at night are also at an inception stage. “Currently, the last train from Matheran leaves at 6.30pm, but there is a huge demand for night trains from tourists and locals. Therefore, we will request the commissioner of railway safety to add two more services after sunset that will allow these trains to operate till 9pm and allow luggage to be transported after that,” added Jain.

The administration has also added 5-seater luxury family coach to the toy train. The coach has a sofa couch and a camera fitted outside it, which will enable the commuters seated inside to enjoy the view without opening the windows.

Published in: on November 25, 2012 at 12:49 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Passenger Friendly Train Service in Kashmir Valley

Integral Coach Factory of Indian Railways has designed and manufactured Diesel Electric Multiple Units (DEMUs) rakes which are already running in Kashmir Valley. These DEMUs have been specially designed to operate in subzero conditions and also have been furnished aesthetically keeping in view the tourist traffic in Srinagar Valley. Various features have been incorporated in these units, keeping in view all prevailing circumstances of the region to make the services passenger friendly. Specially designed roof mounted heating units to take care of comfort of passengers during winter season and stainless steel chequered sheet below the first window of the compartment of physically handicapped passengers so as to enable visually challenged passengers to identify the coach, have been provided.

Published in: on November 25, 2012 at 12:47 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Setting Up of Thermal Power Plants by Railways

Indian Railways is establishing its first coal based captive power plant of 1000 Mega Watt (MW) capacity at Nabinagar in Bihar in Joint Venture (JV) with National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) which is under construction.

Indian Railways has further planned to set up two more captive power plants in Railway land, one 1320 MW capacity coal based power plant and Adra in Purulia district of West Bengal is Joint Venture with National Thermal Power Corporation and another 700 MW gas power plant at ThakurIi near Kalyan in Maharashtra. Fuel linkage and environmental clearance for both these plants are is process.

Annual saving of about Rs. 500 crore from Nabinagar plant, Rs. 600 crore from Adra plant and Rs. 200 crore for Thakurli plant has been estimated due to reduction in electricity tariff.

Published in: on November 25, 2012 at 12:46 pm  Leave a Comment  

Utilisation of Railway Vacant Land for Commercial Development

Indian Railway network occupies a land area measuring about 10.65 lakh acres. Ninety per cent of this land is directly under railway tracks, yards, workshops and allied infrastructure. The vacant land, measuring about 1.13 lakh acres is mostly in the form of a narrow strip along tracks which Railways have been utilizing or plan to utilize for its expansion in the form of doubling, third line, quadrupling, gauge conversion, freight corridors, yard remodeling, traffic facility works, workshops, etc and for servicing and maintenance of track and other rail related infrastructure.

Vacant land not required by Railways for its immediate future operational needs is also proposed to be utilized for commercial development, wherever feasible, for the interim period through a Statutory Authority namely Rail Land Development Authority (RLDA) set up in 2007 through as act of Parliament. As the commercial development is a market driven activity, to be undertaken with the approval of the State Government/local authorities, assessment of revenue generation can only be done when specific schemes are taken up for development.

Trains at 200 kmph between Delhi-Mumbai soon

For a nation that has come to take trains running at 100 kmph as superfast, there is good news on the way. Indian Railways is working on a plan to run passenger trains at a speed of 200 kmph between Mumbai and Delhi by 2017.

And these won’t be bullet trains, which will take more time to become reality, the new superfast trains will use the existing tracks once the freight trains shift to the dedicated freight corridor being laid between Dadri in Uttar Pradesh near Delhi and Jawaharlal Nehru Port Mumbai, a newspaper reported.

Dubbed as semi-high speed trains – bullet trains run at speeds over 350 kmph – will significantly reduce the travel time between India’s two biggest cities. However, the tracks would have to be strengthened to make them capable to handling trains at 200 kmph.

The current fastest train on the section, the Rajdhani Express have a maximum speed of 120 kmph.

As per The Economic Times, the Railways had commissioned a study last year to identify the infrastructure that needs to be upgraded for the high-speed service. A railway official told the business daily that the work can be completed within four years of commissioning.

The other big advantage of the dedicated freight corridor (DFC) is that freight trains would also speed up considerably as the current average speed of freight trains increase from the present 25 kmph to 75 kmph.

The first phase of Rewari-Vododara of Western DFC will be commissioned by December 2016 and the entire line will be operational by March 2017.

Private investment in railways gets Cabinet nod

Desperate to attract private investment in railways, the Cabinet on Thursday cleared the transporter’s plan to rope in the private sector for building new rail lines and plants and augment capacity, a move that was red-flagged by unions. With the policy in place, the railways will be able to get the private sector to connect ports, mines and industrial plants with the railway network by allowing them to invest in laying the tracks for last-mile connectivity. The move is expected to lower transportation cost and help move minerals, coal and finished products from production hubs. Similarly, wherever the private sector thinks putting up a third or a fourth line is feasible, the government can enter into a build-operatetransfer arrangement. The move comes as the railways, in the absence of fare increase, has failed to generate resources for funding modernization, leave alone capacity addition, despite successive railway ministers adding new trains to appease their constituency. ‘Model pacts to be finalized soon’

The railways had earlier suggested that connectivity to ports and mines would be developed by the owner or concessionaire as private railway lines by acquiring land and making investments in it which could be declared non-government railway (NGR) for public carriage of goods.

The government, however, said the model agreements for private participation — ranging from NGR to BOT, joint ventures and capacity augmentation via funding by customers — will be finalized soon.
Although the Cabinet cleared the proposal on Thursday, the government will need to get the bureaucracy on board as it has repeatedly blocked any attempt by the private sector to get a foothold. For instance, the move to allow private container operators has proved to be a nonstarter as the railways decided to give public sector player Concor priority.

Similarly, Lalu Prasad’s plans for PPP locomotive factories in Marhaura and Madhepura, both in Bihar, are yet to take off despite interest from companies such as GE.
Even this time, the unions are opposing any attempt to hand over operation and maintenance to private players, which could deter investors looking to enter the BOT space for building new lines. Citing poor finances, they are, however,not opposed to letting private players invest in infrastructure development, indicating that they are on board for an EPC-like arrangement where the private sector only builds projects, and invests in it.

“We don’t have any problem with private sector participation in infrastructure development. But we’ll oppose if the railways tries to hand over operation and maintenance to private companies,” said Shiv Gopal Misra, general secretary, All-India Railwaymen Federation.