Rail cops get help on deadly tracks

Railway tracks have become death traps and a rise in fatalities has alarmed the railway police.

With an average of three people being hit by trains in Chennai every day, and being too short-staffed to man all the lines in the city, the government railway police (GRP) have roped in volunteers from NGOs in an attempt to curb fatal track accidents.

More than 100 volunteers including a radio jockey, a law student, doctors and businessmen will visit neighbourhoods and slums along railway lines to ask residents not to cross railway lines or, if they have no choice, inform them about the precautions they need to take while doing so.

“We have roped in volunteers from NGOs because they can reach out to people and educate them about the risks,” said GRP inspector-general R Arumugam. “Our men have carried out campaigns in the past but people are more receptive to representatives of social service organisations.”

The volunteers have signed up with the railway police under Madras Station Vigilance Committee, a programme to spread awareness on train accidents and crime. Such groups are being set up at major stations across the state.

In around 70% of fatal train accidents, the victims were using the tracks as toilets. Close to 25% were speaking on their cellphones and did not notice the train approach, Arumugam said. Suicides accounted for a relatively smaller number of deaths.

While a majority of the victims were hit by long distance trains, more than 120 people died on the tracks on the suburban routes of Central-Beach-Tiruvallur and the Central-Beach-Gummidipoondi line last year. Sixteen people have died on suburban lines so far this year.

The GRP also want the volunteers to monitor miscreants who loiter around railway tracks and report any suspicious activity. Madras Station Vigilance Committee secretary V Arumugam said the volunteers will also help out with crowd control at stations, prevent people from crossing the tracks or causing damage to the passengers or tracks.

“The volunteers will work alongside GRP men,” he said. The committee members will distribute pamphlets to passengers about crime on trains like chain-snatching and help regulate traffic outside railway stations.


Men with machines change railway station’s face

Indore railway station is not the same as it was three months back.Thanks to the new mechanized system by a Jaipur-based firm — Dynamic Enterprise – all the five platforms have better sanitation. The firm has a two-year contract with the Western Railways.

Western Railway-Ratlam circle public relation officer Pradip Sharma said, “There is a monthly expense of Rs 10.43 lakh. A total of 103 employees of the company discharge their duties in three shifts.”

Elaborating on the machines, Sharma said, “Currently, 19 machines are being used which include two litter pickers, six manual flippers, four jet pressure machines, two battery-operated ride-on scrubbers, two manually-operated scrubber machines, two vacuum cleaners and a disc machine. The scrubber machines are used to effectively clean the railway tracks.

The move to switch to a private body for cleanliness at the station was a result of the paltry state of the hygiene on the platforms. “We came across many complaints related to poor sanitation and paucity of employees. However, in the last three months, the number of complaints have come down,” Sharma said.

Shweta Maheshwari, a school teacher, said, “I had visited the railway station last week and platforms were comparatively cleaner.”

Vikas Nahar, an advertising professional, said, “I recently visited the platform number five and it was cleaner. Though while travelling back from Mumbai, I found stations of Gujarat much cleaner.

Effort of the railway authorities is laudable.”.” Vivek Mishra, a businessman, said, “I saw these machines cleaning platform. The station, of late, has improved on sanitary standard. It is cleaner than the railway stations in Bhopal.”

To encourage individual effort to keep the platform clean, railway authority under the Railways Act in the last financial year 2012-13 had booked more than 1,250 offenders and raised a fine of around Rs 1.50 lakh. Sharma said that they expect people to maintain highest standard of cleanliness at the station.

Similar services are being rendered by on board housekeeping services for the last three years in trains like Malwa Express and Indore-Rajendra Nagar Express. Sharma said Ujjain station might have a similar system but things are still under process there.


IRCTC plans sugar-free food, drinks for travelling diabetics

Passengers travelling in premium long-distance trains such as Rajdhani and Duronto Express might soon get the option of sugar-free juices and meals instead of the regular food served on board.

The Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) is consulting nutrition experts who will help them design a special menu for diabetics.

From April 1, passengers travelling by first AC on the Rajdhani will get a choice of coconut water and natural juices without added sugar. Similarly, fibre biscuits will replace regular ones in the sugar-free breakfast.

“Considering the number of inquiries for sugar-free meals and juices, we have decided to roll out a meal for diabetics. The nutritionist will help us come up with some healthy and sugar-free options,” said Virender Singh, group general manager, IRCTC.

The facility will gradually be extended to the 2nd and 3rd AC coaches as well. A similar service will be started in the four Duronto Express trains in phases.

“Discussions are also being held with the Western Railway (WR) for them to start a similar service. Meanwhile, we are training our staff to offer the new option just like they do for Jain, veg or non-veg meals,” added Singh.

Appreciating the move, activists wanted the service to be introduced on all trains on which the Railways provides food.


Published in: on March 31, 2013 at 4:15 am  Comments (1)  
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Anubhuti coaches to have features ‘similar to aeroplanes’

Minister of state for railways, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, confirmed on Saturday during his visit to the rail coach factory, Kapurthala, that the railway board has received design proposals for “Anubhuti” coaches from the RCF and the factory would be given orders after approval by the board. It is learned that RCF has proposed internal features “similar to aeroplanes” to make these super-luxury coaches extremely comfortable.

RCF has proposed to have LCD screens and entertainment system and features similar to those in aircraft, while also designing diffused lighting in place of focused lights as is the practice in trains.

These coaches would be having motorized automatic sliding door in compartments while in all earlier coaches, these were manually operated doors, which required a bit of force for opening. “These motorized doors would open with just pressing a button and would be making a class difference for travelers, pushing the standard of coaches to the next orbit,” an RCF official, privy to the design details, told TOI.

RCF officials revealed that the inside aesthetics they had proposed included paneling with world class phenolic-based fiber reinforced plastic, which was currently the best used material for internal aesthetics. Rubberished floor having anti-skid properties has also been proposed.

While bio-toilets are already being manufactured and fitted by RCF, Anubhuti coaches would have modular lavatories with better space management and aeroplane-type fitting. While the RCF has already rolled out coaches with Wi-Fi, the Anubhuti coaches would have this feature integrated in them.

Even as the number of chairs has not yet been decided and reduction in their number is also not being ruled out, the proposed design and material of these chairs aim at making these much more comfortable. “Even if the number may not come down or there would be slight difference, these chairs would have better leg space and comfort,” said a RCF official.

Meanwhile, the MoS, who visited RCF when it is completing its silver jubilee year, said that the mandate of Anubhuti coaches is very clear — to make the journey a super-luxury experience. Manufacturing of these coaches would be started by RCF here as soon as the design is finalized, he said.


Another rail fare hike in October?

Come October, rail commuters are likely to be served another dose of fare hike. During that month, the Railways will review the fuel adjustment component (FAC) and the burden arising from the rise in diesel and electricity costs will be passed on to passengers.

The increased freight rates, supplementary and reservation charges announced in the Railway budget for 2013-14 will come into effect on April 1.

Fares for animals and birds too have been raised by at least 25 per cent. Speaking at the National Editors Conference here on Saturday, Railway Board Chairman Vinay Mittal said the FAC would be next reviewed in October. Mr. Mittal said freight charges had been hiked (with effect from April 1) by 5.7 per cent, passing on the entire burden of Rs. 3,300 crore caused by the huge hike of Rs. 10.8 a litre of diesel for bulk purchasers.

The railways had absorbed the load on itself as the fares had been increased in January. In future both the fares and freight rates would be increased to offset the loss.

Oil marketing companies effected a second hike of Re. 1 for bulk purchasers after the Railway Budget was presented. Given the policy decision to pass it on to the consignors and consumers, the next hike in passenger and freight rates is bound to come in October.

In tune with the budget proposals, the Railways have notified the 5.7 per cent across-the-board freight rate hike with effect from April 1, which would yield Rs. 4,200 crore during the next fiscal.

Though the organisation claims it had absorbed the financial loss of about Rs. 800 crore on account of passenger trains, the fact is that the budget proposals increasing reservation fee and supplementary charges for trains, tatkal charges, and clerkage and cancellation charges would mop up more than Rs. 850 crore during 2013-14.

All these revisions have been notified and will be effective on journeys starting on April 1. As per the fine print of the circulars, the tatkal charges would be realised at the rate of 10 per cent of the basic fare for reserved second class sleeper and 30 per cent of the basic fare for all other classes subject to the minimum and maximum charges specified. The increase ranges from Rs. 15 to Rs. 100 depending upon the class.

Second and sleeper classes have been spared from the hike in the reservation fees, while all other high-end passengers will have to shell out increased charges ranging from Rs. 15 to Rs. 35 a person.

Supplementary charges for superfast trains have been increased for all classes ranging from Rs. 5 to Rs. 25. Add to this increased clerkage charges of Rs. 5 for second class and Rs. 10 for all other classes.

Service tax will be levied separately on both the reservation fees and supplementary charges.

Cancellation charges too have been raised by Rs. 5 for second class, while others will have to bear additional burden ranging from Rs. 20 to Rs. 50.

Mr. Mittal said that due to paucity of funds, priority would be given to projects on the verge of completion or considered critical.

The emphasis was on improving the network in mountain States. Jammu and Kashmir, the north-east and Uttarakhand would get priority.

The Qazigund-Banihal section would be commissioned by May first week. The section would pierce the Pir Panjal Himalayan Ranges, thanks to the 11.2-km tunnel.

The Railways were in touch with the J&K government for issuing a composite rail-road ticket to facilitate hassle-free travel for passengers as a direct rail link between Jammu and Srinagar was yet to be put in place.

Trains operate only up to Udhampur and would be linked with Katra soon. But the stretch between Katra and Banihal is posing several engineering challenges.

Environmental clearance was holding up the progress in Sikkim, but work on laying the track up to Rangpo was in progress. In Manipur, work was affected by the economic blockade.

Acknowledging the strategic importance of extending the rail network right up to Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh, Financial Commissioner Vijaya Kanth said a survey had been undertaken.


Rlys to take a call on linking fuel price with passenger fares in Sept

In six months rail fares may also move in sync with diesel prices. The Railway Ministry, which will introduce the Fuel Adjustment Component on freight starting April 1, will take a call on extending the FAC to fares in September.

But this decision will be influenced by political considerations. Starting the last quarter this year, many States are set to get into elections leading to the general elections. With over two crore people using trains every day, passenger fares have been used as political tools and not revised for many years at times.

Dual price mechanism

Indian Railways decided to introduce the FAC on freight services from April 1, after oil companies introduced a dual price mechanism for diesel in late January, and brought in market-linked prices for bulk consumers such as Indian Railways.

“The FAC will be reviewed in six months. Railways will take a call on whether it should be spread over to passenger services at that time,” said Railway Board Chairman Vinay Mittal, while speaking at the national editor’s conference.

“In fiscal 2012-13, for Railways, diesel price has gone up by about 39 per cent and electricity price for Railways has gone up by about eight per cent,” said Vijaya Kanth, Financial Commissioner, Railway Board.

Kanth further explained, “In the Railway Budget, we did not introduce FAC on passenger fares because the passenger fares had been increased just two months ago, in January. Rather, we partially absorbed losses due to increase in fuel charges on passenger fares. In effect, we took a hit of Rs 800 crore hit on passenger services,” said Kanth.

Extra fuel bill

As a result of the dual pricing mechanism, diesel price for Railways went up by almost Rs 11 a litre. After January, there have been at least two rounds of almost Re 1 a litre hike each for bulk diesel prices, adding an extra fuel bill of Rs 560 crore.

As of now, Railway decided to review its FAC every six months. The FAC on freight is about 5.8 per cent taking into account the diesel hike till January, while on passengers it may be 2-3 per cent, said Kanth.

Meanwhile, in a move that may later have positive implications for Indian Railways, the diesel bulk pricing regime – where State road transportation undertakings end up paying significantly higher for diesel than private vehicle users – is the subject of court appeals in Tamil Nadu and Kerala.


Railways may decide on passenger fare hike in October

A decision on a possible hike in passenger fares will be taken by the Railways in October, when it will review the fuel adjustment component (FAC) in the wake of rising fuel and energy costs.

While the freight rate will go up by about 5.7 per cent from April 1 due to the linking of the FAC to the freight tariff, the Railways will examine its applicability in its passenger services in October this year.

“There is a policy now and the FAC is linked with energy and fuel prices and calculated accordingly,” Railway Board chairman Vinay Mittal said at a conference.

Passenger fares could go up by 2 to 3 per cent if the FAC is linked to the basic fare in passenger services in October.

“The FAC will be reviewed after six months for both freight and passenger fares. Whether the FAC will be reduced or increased, it will be examined in October and a decision will be taken only then,” he said, adding, “by that time, the Rail Tariff Authority is also expected to be constituted.”

The Rail Tariff Authority, the first of its kind for the Railways, will suggest the level of tariffs for both freight and passenger services from time to time, taking into account input costs and market conditions.

Mr Mittal said currently the RTA is in the inter-ministerial consultation stage and a Cabinet note will be prepared for it shortly.

“The FAC for passenger and freight are calculated separately. While we decided to link the FAC with freight tariff from April 1, we absorbed the increased fuel cost of Rs. 800 crore and did not hike passenger fares,” he said.

“Since we raised the passenger fare in January we did not consider it again, and the FAC was implemented for freight only,” he said.

Asked repeatedly whether or not the FAC will be imposed in October, Mr Mittal, however, said “I am not in a position to say that now because it will be reviewed and then a decision will be

The FAC, which takes into account both electricity and diesel costs, is about 16 to 17 per cent of the total expenditure. There is a 39 per cent hike in fuel cost and an 8 per cent energy hike till January 2013 from April 2012.

Mr Mittal also said that the Railways is focusing on fiscal discipline by curbing expenditure.

Referring to passenger amenities, he said measures are being taken to bring down the accident rate and improving passenger amenities at rail premises.


Train tickets to carry helpline numbers of railway police

The helpline numbers of Government Railway Police in Tamil Nadu and Kerala will now be printed on the back of the tickets booked through the Passenger Reservation System for the benefit of travellers in distress.

This was decided at a high-level coordination meeting on security convened by Southern Railway and attended by Government Railway Police chiefs of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Puducherry.

“Initially, these numbers will be printed on the back of tickets booked through the PRS. Soon, we will extend it to open tickets too,” V. K. Dhaka, Chief Security Commissioner, Southern Railway said.

Officials attending the meeting emphasised the need for constant exchange of crime intelligence between the GRP, Railway Protection Force and local police for effective prevention of crime and extremist activities.

They also reviewed the security of passengers, especially women passengers, and exchanged inputs on improving overall safety of travellers.

Though the crime rate in 2012 on the Southern Railway network has come down by 12 per cent from the 2011 levels, the coordinated vigil will be sustained, Mr. Dhaka said.

The meeting also took stock of the state-of-the-art Integrated Security System project that envisages putting in place an anti-terror apparatus that includes high-tech surveillance cameras, under vehicle scanners, doorframe metal detectors and X-ray baggage screening conveyors and explosives detection and disposal mechanisms at important stations.

In Chennai, the system has already been set up at Chennai Central, Chennai Egmore and Basin Bridge apart from four more suburban stations. In all, the ISS is being set up at 14 stations in southern railway including Madurai, Tiruchi, Coimbatore, Thiruvananthapuram Central, Kozhikode, Ernakulam and Mangalore.

Rakesh Misra, Southern Railway General Manager, said the ISS which was already installed at six stations would be commissioned in the remaining eight stations expeditiously. More stations will also have CCTV coverage, he said.


Kashmir Valley to get crucial rail link by May

The critical Banihal-Qazigund rail section will expectedly be commissioned by this coming May at the PMO’s prodding, making the Kashmir Valley accessible throughout the year putting an end to its isolation during winter.

The 17.7 km-long section was tested in the last week of December. The rail section comprises the longest rail tunnel in India, passing through the Pirpanjal Himalayan ranges that separate the valley from the Jammu region and the rest of India.

IRCON, which is executing the project at an estimated cost of Rs. 1,670 crore, was expected to complete the other mechanical and electrical jobs by this March. The Commissioner of Railway Safety, too, was expected to give his clearance for operation within March.

Taking cognizance of the failure to abide by the deadline, the Prime Minister’s Office held a meeting here on Friday, took stock of the situation, and directed that the section be commissioned within the next two months. The Prime Minister’s Principal Secretary Pulok Chatterjee chaired the meeting.

The trial run of the first train in December tested the single broad gauge track of the 11.215-km-long Pirpanjal tunnel, constructed at a cost of Rs.1,172 crore. It also has a three-metre-wide maintenance and emergency road route.

IRCON declared that it would be able to provide world class ventilation in the tunnel apart from installing safety emergency lighting, sensors for detection of obnoxious gases and fire and linear fire alarm systems by March, notwithstanding the severe winter. This deadline to connect Qazigund, the last station in the Valley, with Banihal in the Jammu region opening up Kashmir to the rest of the country has been missed.

When commissioned, this section will allow connectivity to passenger trains up to Baramulla via Srinagar. The 345-km-long Jammu-Srinagar-Baramulla section will get operational entirely in 2017 when Banihal is connected with Katra. Till then, visitors will have to use the road route up to Banihal and take the rail route that beats the weather condition providing all-weather connectivity.

The PMO also set deadlines for completion of strengthening of power transmission and distribution networks in J&K by March 2014 while directing that the 44-KW Chutak Hydro Electric Power project in Kargil be completed by October. The deadline for the 45-MW Nimoo Bazgo Hydro Electric Project in Ladakh is expected to go critical by December.


Loco pilots to get AC comfort

Loco pilots of Southern Railway can soon look forward to working in the comfort of air-conditioned diesel locomotives.

For the first time, Southern Railway will put into operation new air-conditioned ‘EMD’ type diesel engines with dual cabins to haul long distance mail, express and superfast trains.

Four such locos with high horsepower and improved ambience, manufactured by the Varanasi-based Diesel Loco Works, are housed at Tiruchi Diesel Loco Shed.

The Tiruchi shed is the first in South India to house air-conditioned EMD locos.

The swanky locos would be put into operation upon obtaining clearance from the Commissioner of Railway Safety (CRS).

A trial run of the four locos with wider cabin and ergonomically designed seats was successfully done on the Tiruchi – Dindigul and Dindigul Erode broad gauge sections recently. Orientation programmes are being conducted for loco pilots at Tiruchi, Erode, Madurai and Ernakulam for piloting the new engines.

Each of these locos has been fitted with a 1.5-tonne AC unit in the cabin that is also equipped with a couple of Thin Film Transistor (TFT) display – one each for the Loco Pilot and the Assistant Loco Pilot. The TFT display system would enable the Loco Pilot and the Assistant Loco Pilot to clearly view the performance of the engine and its various parameters on monitors installed right in front of their seats.

The AC-fitted locomotive would ensure Loco Pilots work in a cool atmosphere while piloting the engine, the officer told The Hindu .