Indian Railways planning to replace pantry cars with base kitchens

Indian Railways are looking to avoid cooking arrangements in pantry cars and setting up 250 base kitchens across the country to prepare about six lakh meals and snacks per day. The move is in a bid to ensure food is fresh and of high quality. In this regard, the Railways are working out base kitchens at all major stations, including New Delhi, Nizamuddin, Old Delhi, Howrah, Patna, Mumbai, and Bhubaneswar, and other originating stations and junctions where meals will be prepared in hygienic conditions, sources said.

The base kitchens will be set up on railway land near the stations. The Railways will give land at a nominal fee of Re one per sq ft to caterers for setting up base kitchens. The total volume of food business in the Railways is estimated to be around Rs 2,000 crore a year. For now, Railways are finalising a common bidding format across the country for providing branded food items. It will empanel brands for certain items and make it mandatory for caterers to invest in base kitchens. The bidding norms have provisions to prevent only a few catering firms from cornering a large share of business. The bidding in catering service is expected to begin by May this year, according to the source.

On similar lines, “Pantry cars in trains will only store food and completely abandon the concept of cooking meals and snacks. All of these will be prepared from the base kitchens,” the source said. Beverages like tea, coffee and milk will be prepared in trains.

Published in: on January 31, 2013 at 5:39 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

Rail Radar – Railway’s New Toy for anxious travellers

Panicking in a dense fog at Odhaniya Chacha, an unfamiliar railway station in Rajasthan, and unable to find any response from a gawky babu at a half-open information counter? Try the Indian Railways’ new offering — Rail Radar.

With an interactive Google map, this new software, designed by Union railway ministry’s IT wing Centre for Railway information systems (CRIS), is a live tracker of all passenger train traffic in real time and was launched just before winter set in.

“Map your trains live. Train travel made easy,” said Sunil Bajpai at CRIS, while sharing the new software available at The software is available in the form of a website and an Android app.

It allows users to continuously watch the movements, with a graphical description, of trains, which are currently running in India.

For a clutter-free look, there’s a colour coding: blue for on-time and red for delayed trains adds.

A box that deals with trains affected, in a span of 24 hours, with fog alone too comes a handy tool.

There is even a tab that shows the expected time of arrival (ETA) of the train using an algorithm that is fed inputs from the local control offices and monitoring stations.

“This is one of our endeavours to eliminate inconvenience to people. The family members of the passengers now need not come to the railway stations and wait for hours,” said Union railway minister Pawan Kumar Bansal.

For the extra curious, there is also an option for the passengers to know the route already covered by a specific train and the trains arriving at and departing from a particular station.

The system, however, has a minor accuracy offset. “The data is refreshed every five minutes. Plus, there is no control on weather, breakdowns and congestions,” said CRIS managing director Vikram Chopra. Also, cargo and goods trains have been kept out the application.

Some concerned officials have also raised security concerns with the tracking trains.

“The assertion that knowing a train’s whereabouts or routing promotes terrorism or is a security risk is inaccurate reasoning and baseless paranoia,” said the CRIS official.

Published in: on January 31, 2013 at 5:33 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

Rlys aims for R1k-cr pvt fund for toilet project

After getting overwhelming response from the private sector in major rail infrastructure public private partnership (PPP) projects, Indian railways is now eyeing to attract an investment of around R1,000 crore from private sector for building toilets at 600 railway stations under PPP mode.

The much-needed step to provide basic amenity at stations comes in at a time when the national transporter is cash strapped and has no money to complete its major infrastructure projects. Railways, for long, has been struggling to provide clean lavatories at its stations as hygienic toilets have never been a priority for railways due to cash crunch.

The pay and use toilets would be built by a concessionaire on the design, build, finance, operate and transfer (DBFOT) model.

According to senior Rail Bhawan officials, railways have entered in an MOU with Sulabh international, an NGO that works to provide cheap toilets, for building toilets at railway platforms. Railways is also keen on having corporates invest in construction and maintenance of public toilets at stations. Land for constructing toilets will be provided to the developer by the railways on the payment of a nominal licence fee.

“Clean toilets have been a long standing issue for railways. We would like to have corporates who are interested in creating world-class toilets and maintaining them. Railways has proposed a charge of R5 per user, where the user would be provided a shampoo pouch and fresh tissues,” a senior railway officer said.

Toilets will come up at all major junctions across the country, beginning with major stations such as New Delhi, Old Delhi, Hazrat Nizamuddin, Bangalore, Kolkata, Patna, Hyderabad, Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Mumbai Central, Dadar, Chennai and other stations which have a footfall of over 3 lakh. Its announcement is likely to be made in the upcoming railway Budget.

“The concessionaire will build toilets with good quality ceramic flooring, besides providing European style toilets, adequate exhaust fans to ensure proper air circulation and arrangement for disabled-friendly toilets,” the official added.

Along with toilets, the concessionaire would also build and operate cloak rooms adjacent to these toilets, the duration of concessionaire agreement will be kept around 30 years

Published in: on January 31, 2013 at 5:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

Container rail movement set to get costlier

Movement of containers on trains is set to get costlier again with the Railways not withdrawing the nine per cent haulage rate hike, which will come into effect from February 1. Container Corporation of India (Concor), the largest container train operator accounting for over 70 per cent of the market, has already decided to hike charges with effect from February 1. The extent of increase varies based on weight, distance and routes. This is the second increase for Concor’s customers in the last two-three months. This follows the Railway Ministry’s move to hike the rail haulage charges.


Haulage charge is paid by container train operators (CTOs) to the Railways for using the tracks, locomotives and signalling systems. Haulage charges account for about 70 per cent of the operating cost for CTOs.

The Railways had decided to increase haulage charges by up to 31 per cent in two instalments — 22 per cent from December 1, and another nine per cent from February 1.

The Association of Container Train Operators (ACTO) has launched a protest against the Ministry’s move. ACTO comprises firms such as Gateway Distriparks, Freightstar, APL-India Infrastructure, Kribhco Rail Infrastructure, and Hind Terminals. It said it had been assured by the Railway Ministry that haulage rate hikes would be tempered.


Concor’s Managing Director Anil Gupta told Business Line that the company was facing strong resistance from its customers for the second round of hike. Container train operators maintained that they had already started seeing diversion of cargo from rail to road in the domestic segment.

No level field

In a strongly-worded statement, ACTO accused the Railways of treating the CTOs unfairly against Railways’ own bulk cargo.

The association has demanded that the Government set up a rail tariff regulatory authority fast to bring rationality and transparency in all rail freight pricing matters.

“The step-motherly treatment meted out to private investors is (evident as) rail haulage charges have been increased eight times during the last seven years since the market was opened up. This resulted in a cumulative increase of 73-128 per cent in different weight slabs,” said ACTO.

“In contrast, the tariff for transport of bulk cargo by rail, in which Railways’ investment goes, has increased by a mere 32 per cent over the same period,” claimed ACTO.

The CTOs have already started experiencing diversion of cargo from containers to road as the recent diesel price increase has had a very marginal impact on the road rates.

In 2006, the Railways opened up containerised movement for private sector, after which over 15 firms entered the segment.

The private investors invested over Rs 4,000 crore in wagons, containers and terminals in addition to Rs 650 crore as licence fee.

Ration card okay as ID for non-AC train travellers

Ration cards and bank passbooks will be enough to endorse your ticket booking and travel aboard the trains.

Indian Railways have expanded the list of prescribed proofs of identity for passengers to book tickets and endorse it aboard.

Now the photo identity cards with serial numbers issued by public sector units of state and centre, district administrations, municipal bodies and panchayats will be allowed to be produced for booking and endorsement.

However, the provision of ration cards and passbooks is not applicable for all classes of e-tickets and Tatkal tickets and the tickets issued through reservation counters for travelling in Air – conditioned classes and First Class. According to railways the facility is applicable only for the passengers belonging to the lower economic classes.

According to this new relaxation, attested photocopy of Ration Card with photograph and Nationalized Bank Passbook with photographs will be accepted as a prescribed proof of identity only in case of reserved tickets booked through computerized Passenger Reservation System (PRS) counters, for undertaking journey in sleeper and Second Reserved Sitting classes. These photocopies should be attested by a Gazetted Officer or the Chief Reservation Supervisor or Station Manager / Station Master, said the statement issued by the railways.

From doorstep to train berth, Rlys works out a travel deal

The Railways is taking its services to the next level. In the works is an “end-to-end” travel solution for passengers, involving doorstep pick-up, porter facility, waiting provision in the executive lounge and assisted boarding, all for a fee and all rolled into one package deal.

The modalities of the project, to be rolled out in Delhi first, are being worked out. Conceived by the railway ministry, it will be executed by Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC).

“We are working on the logistics, and hope to start the service in six months,” Rakesh Tandon, IRCTC managing director, said.

The package deal is meant to minimise the hassles of a railway journey, from reaching the station and managing the luggage to haggling with porters and boarding the train. The amount charged will factor in the cab charges as well as the porter fees. Customer executives will escort passengers to their trains.

The package deal can be soon availed from the same website from where railway tickets are booked. Those travelling alone, especially senior citizens, are expected to benefit the most, apart from business travellers who are in the city for a day.

The idea is linked to railway executive lounges, the first of which was opened at the New Delhi railway station last month. Currently, for Rs 300, a passenger can use the lounge for three hours, and meals are included. Fifty more such lounges are planned.

What may be an impediment is the scale of the service — starting, for example, with the number of taxis that may be required to be a call away. The option of using chartered buses from certain points is being considered.

Private container train operators demand tariff regulator

The Association of Container Train Operators, or ACTO, lobby group said Tuesday the government should set up a rail tariff regulatory authority for rational, transparent freight rates.

Indian Railways had opened up the rail transportation of containers in 2006 to private operators that had already invested more than Rs4,000 crore in wagons, containers and terminals in addition to Rs650 crore for securing a licence from the government.

However, the group said rail haulage charges have been increased eight times during the last seven years since deregulation, resulting in a cumulative increase of 73%-128% in different weight slabs, while tariffs for transport of bulk cargo by rail, in which investment in wagons is by the Railways themselves, has increased by a mere 32% over the same period.

The railway ministry prescribes haulage charges for transportation of containers by rail from time to time. These operators, including state-run Container Corp. of India Ltd, pay haulage charges to the ministry for using the railways’ track, locomotives, signalling infrastructure and staff for running their container trains to ports from inland locations and back.

Two women’s coaches on longer trains

Two compartments of each eight-coach Metro train may soon be reserved for women. Demands for more reserved space for women passengers were raised after the December 16 gangrape and murder of a 23-year-old woman on a bus. Even the Delhi government made a similar request to the managing director of the Delhi Metro.

“We received a letter from the chief minister’s office on January 21, asking us to introduce two women’s compartments in eight-coach trains,” Sharat Sharma, director (operations), Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC), said.

The Delhi Metro will conduct a study to ascertain the number of women commuters on Line Two (Gurgaon-Jahangirpuri) and Line Three (Noida-Dwarka), the two routes on which around 70 eight-coach trains will be introduced by early next year.

“After analysing the rush of women commuters, we may introduce two women’s compartments in eight-coach trains,” said Mangu Singh, managing director, DMRC.

According to sources in the DMRC, two women coaches will be introduced if at least 25% of the commuters on these lines are women.

The Delhi Metro had introduced the first eight-coach train on the busy Gurgaon-Jahangirpuri corridor a month ago and so far increased the number to five.

It will, however, not introduce eight-coach trains on the Dwarka-Noida line in the next eight months.

Earlier, the DMRC had proposed the introduction of eight-coach trains on the two busiest lines by 2012 end in a bid to take on the growing rush of commuters.

Men travelling in coaches reserved for women in Metro trains has become one of the prime areas of concern for the Delhi Metro.

Women coaches in metro trains were introduced in October 2010. In two years, the Delhi Metro had realised a staggering R32 lakh from men travelling in women’s coaches, said officials.

Published in: on January 31, 2013 at 4:19 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

Season ticket holders can’t travel in reserved coaches: HC

The Kerala High Court has upheld a Railway stipulation that passengers holding season tickets cannot travel in reserved coaches.

The court passed the order while dismissing a petition filed by the Railway First Class Season Ticket Passengers’ Association, Kozhikode, and three others.

The court also upheld norms set by the Railways that first-class season tickets would be issued only for those routes that have trains with first-class unreserved coaches.

The Railways held that seats or berths were not reserved for first and second-class season ticket holders. Under the Indian Railway Commercial Manual, Railways are bound to see that passengers who had reserved their berths are properly accommodated. The Railways said that journeys undertaken by first-class season ticket holders in reserved coaches, including sleeper-class on Express trains, are not permitted. All season ticket holders, including those who posses valid first-class season tickets, are bound to travel by general coaches, in case a particular train does not have an unreserved coach, the Railways said.

First class season tickets are issued by the Thiruvananthapurm Railway Division for Parasuram and Venad Express trains, on which unreserved first class coaches are available.

Russian expertise for railway track maintenance soon

The winds of change have truly started blowing through the corridors of Indian Railways following the appointment of a Congress nominee Pawan Kumar Bansal as the union railway minister. The Railways have remained under the charge of non-Congress allies in the recent past, who were more focused on populist measures and setting up of railway projects in their home states rather than taking any hard decisions for improving the health of the Railways.

But with a Congress leader at the helm of the affairs, things seem to be at last moving in the right direction. After the hike in railway fares – the first in more than a decade – to cut down losses in the railways, the union minister is now focusing attention on improving maintenance of railway tracks. This, in turn, will enhance railway safety.

According to officials of Northern Railways, the tempering, leveling and lining of the railway tracks in as many as 19 zones may soon be handed over to a Russian firm. A Russian machine was tested last week at Kurukshetra and the results were found to be satisfactory. Earlier, this work was being looked after exclusively by an Austrian firm.

Railway sources said that the Russian machine is not only more reliable, but also requires less manpower. The Russian firm has already imported 19 machines, which are being tested at Kurukshetra,Vijaywada, Mumbai, Delhi, Ajmer, Jhansi and Mugalsarai.

Published in: on January 29, 2013 at 5:06 pm  Leave a Comment