First air-conditioned double-decker train in south India

Chennai Central-Bangalore City-Chennai Central Daily Superfast Express, the first fully air-conditioned double-decker train in south India, arrived here Thursday afternoon to a grand reception.

Leaving Chennai Central at 7.25 a.m., it reached Bangalore City Station at 1.30 p.m. even as senior officials from the South Western Railway joined the public to welcome it.

According to N. Ramesh, Senior Divisional Commercial Manager, Bangalore Division of SWR, 488 passengers travelled from Chennai to Bangalore during the inaugural run. During its return journey from Bangalore, it left at 2.40 p.m. with 642 passengers and reached Chennai at 8.45 pm.

While the occupancy was 41 per cent and the earnings were Rs. 2,29,360 in the Chennai-Bangalore trip, it was 54 per cent and 3,01,740 in the return trip, he said.

K.N. Krishnaprasad, a retired government official, who travelled from Chennai to Bangalore, told The Hindu that the train was ahead of schedule and the running time might be reduced in future. The coaches of the train have three levels of floors, one at the platform entry level, one at the lower level and another at the upper level, with a seating capacity of 22, 48 and 50. The coaches are fitted with semi-reclining cushion seats and have power outlets for laptop/ cell phone charging.

Other features include a GPS-based passenger information system providing real-time running position, train speed and distance to the next station.

Published in: on April 27, 2013 at 3:50 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The growth, evolution and floundering of Indian Railways

From the construction of the first railroad in India that began in 1850, and the first train that was run on April 16, 1853 from Bombay (now Mumbai) to Thana (Thane), to the unimaginable growth of the railway network, the country’s biggest Public Sector Undertaking has come a long way. But at every stage in its evolution, Indian Railways have faced a new set of problems and raised fresh controversies.

Whatever those problems or issues that confront the system there can be no gainsaying the fact that it remains a showpiece within the country and outside. Never mind the upkeep of the assets or rolling stock, along with China and Russia, the Indian Railways top the list of being the largest network. Carrying well over a million passengers every day and moving about 1,000 million tonnes of freight per year, the very fact that the operations have continued for over a century and a half stands testimony to the strength of the systems.

Largest employer

In terms of employment generation, the Railways provide jobs to about 15 million people, not to talk about the indirect employment. Long before the government of India took up the massive National Highways expansion and upgradation programme, the Railways virtually connected every corner of the country and put in place an effective and efficient network to move people and goods across the country.

When the British decided to launch a railway system and network, the objective was entirely different — to maximise political and commercial advantages along specific routes and to provide for both administrative convenience as well as holidaying. But today the norms are different. In addition to expanding the existing network and providing better connectivity, the focus has been on offering more comfort, greater speed, and modernisation of the systems.

The Railways now have a complex system of suburban systems, the Metro rails, the zonal railways, inter-city trains, and the long distance expresses, not to mention the slower intra-regional passenger trains.

From the time of Independence, successive Railway Ministers have done their bit to expand and modernise the systems. From an entirely metre gauge system, it went on to broad gauge as well to gain speed. Finally, it was decided to adopt a unigauge system for easy travel and connections. From coal-fired locomotives, it moved to diesel and then a massive electrification through an overhead electric traction.


Now, the Railways have moved on to super-fast trains, the Rajdhanis and Durantos. Of course, they have not yet reached the age of bullet trains or the special elevated corridors. Plans are being firmed up for these special corridors and semi-bullet kind of inter-city trains. But that will take time.

The Ministry controls the whole show, but the Railway Board takes care of the day-to-day operations. This is the only PSU that has a budget of its own. Like the general budget presented annually to Parliament by the Finance Minister, there is a Railway budget presented by its Minister every year.

The Ministry also has a few smaller undertakings related to the Railways — the Indian Railway Construction company or IRCON, the Container Corporation of India or CONCOR, the Rail India Technical and Economic Services or RITES, IRFC, CRIS, and the IRCTC that handles the catering and the online booking system. The Indian Railways have planned joint ventures to take up the massive Western and Eastern Corridors that will link New Delhi with Mumbai and Kolkata respectively. Several manufacturing units such as the Integral Coach Factory, the Rail Coach Factory, the locomotives units and several other such units like the Wheel and Axle plant, come under the Railways too.

The challenges

It must be to Nitish Kumar’s credit that an objective and professional White Paper was presented to Parliament under the NDA regime. That was when the Railways seriously introspected and identified avenues to save precious resources and invest wisely on projects. But the decisions taken during his tenure paid dividends when his successor Lalu Prasad took over and he cornered much of the credit for the now famous turnaround in its fortunes. The State Governments had to share costs for all new projects and metro rails to ease the burden. Even then, there has been a marked downslide in the Railways, which the present incumbent, Mr. Bansal, is trying to reverse.

The Railways have to become lean and mean, competitive and efficient. The operating ratio, now almost 90, has to come back to below the 80 level. Second, they have to compete with the airlines for one segment of passengers, and with road transport for the movement of goods. Third, despite talking about the potential for private sector participation for years, the Railways have not managed to attract private investments, mainly because they have not been able to spell out a clear policy. Given the need for such massive doses of investment, it is about time that the Ministry and the Board sit with the private sector to make it attractive for PPPs.

CST ticket examiner collects 12.21 Lakh fines in just one month

Dharmendra Kumar, head train ticket examiner at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST), has created a record of sorts by collecting fines totalling to Rs 12.21 lakh in just one month last year. And, his annual fine collection shot way past his colleagues to Rs 73 lakh.

Kumar said he had checked 30,000-40,000 passengers in 2012, of which 14,598 were found to be travelling without a valid ticket on both suburban and the outstation trains. Recognizing his achievement, the Central Railway recently conferred the CR General Manager Award 2013 on Kumar.

“Kumar has the distinction of recording the highest ticket-checking earnings by any individual staff. The general manger recently felicitated 236 officials from various departments and he was one of the recipients of the GM award,” said CR spokesperson A K Singh.

R R Kurup, a senior vigilance inspector (traffic), also bagged the GM’s award for conducting 185 preventive checks of which 90 were successful. Kurup apprehended 32 touts and handed them over to Railway Protection Force for prosecution.

He also seized “illegally procured” railway tickets amounting to Rs 13.51 lakh from touts and was instrumental in curbing the menace at CST and Dadar among other stations.

The Central Railway Board conferred the Railway Board Award on T A Ramchandran, also a vigilance officer, for nabbing 46 touts and seizing 1,196 tickets amounting to Rs 24.13 lakh. His main achievement was the detection of a racket in which touts procured tatkal tickets from Kolkata and Bihar, and sold them at high prices in Mumbai.

A railway hub looks to the future

As a mass transport system it has hardly any comparable peers either in terms of scale of operations or economy. The comfort it offers, despite the occasional hassles, for long distance journey is unmatched. With a dedicated pathway it is also the best bet for inter-city travel. Given these benefits, it is hardly surprising that rail connectivity is reckoned to be an imperative for the economic and commercial growth of a place and Mysore is no different.

As the divisional headquarters, Mysore is the hub of railway operations over a vast swathe of area called the old Mysore region which was administered by the erstwhile Maharajas of Mysore. In addition, parts of central Karnataka are also within the jurisdiction of the division. Given its importance it is no wonder that the Railways has acquired overwhelming importance in the scheme of overall growth and development of the Mysore region.

This is also evident in the annual statistics released by the authorities and there is a year-on-year growth both in terms of the number of passengers transported as also in the revenue earned. And Mysore, which is at the centre of this hub, is not immune from the growth pressures either. The city railway station, which hardly operated two dozen trains till recent times, has emerged as a major operational hub and currently handles more than 40 pairs of trains daily. The number of passengers being handled at the station borders around 30,000 per day and shoots up to 50,000-60,000 during peak tourism and Dasara season.


The railway authorities believe these numbers are bound to register a dramatic increase with the completion of the track doubling work and electrification between Mysore and Bangalore expected to be complete by the middle of next year. For, not only will the travelling time reduce from the current three hours to less than two hours, the number of trains being operated from the city station will also increase. This calls for augmenting the station’s infrastructure and the authorities are gearing up for the change.

While the second entrance is operational, departure of more number of trains from platforms five and six will be planned in future to decongest the main entrance. The number of ticket counters at the second entrance is bound to be increased and Senior Divisional Commercial Manager Anup Dayanand Sadhu told the stakeholders at the 21{+s}{+t}Divisional Railway Users Consultative Committee Meeting held in the city that an additional ticketing counter will be opened once the minimum stipulated number of tickets – as required under the railway rules – are sold by the existing counter.

The existing facilities at the station will increase with the commissioning of the Multi Functional Complex which had been held up due to legal issues pertaining to land use at the Ministry level, and is expected to be resolved soon.

The city railway station will also have escalators for the benefit of passengers while an integrated security system has been proposed for the station in view of its growing importance. The length of the main platforms have been increased to accommodate 24-coach trains and the Divisional Railway Manager Vinod Kumar pointed out that the aim was to make Mysore the originating and terminal station for the New Delhi-bound Karnataka Express which currently originates and terminates at Bangalore.

This necessitates augmenting maintenance lines which is already underway and the city railway station has already created additional pit lines to undertake both primary and secondary maintenance of coaches and rakes, a must for any station dreaming to have long distance trains.

The net impact of these developments is not only improved connectivity to Mysore, but evidence of the growing commercial vibrancy of the city.

It is not surprising that in the recent DURCC meeting, there were demands for more trains from other centres including Hassan, Arsikere, Hubli and Davangere to Mysore and Bangalore. Additional bogies have been sought to be attached to trains to Shimoga while slip coach services has been demanded for providing connectivity to trains going to Mumbai (but the proposal has been turned down by the authorities as the slip coach services are being discontinued by the Railways from the safety point of view and it does not want to take up shunting operations with passengers on board the coaches).

But these are “micro issues” and in the larger context, the importance of railways for Mysore can be stemmed from the fact that it opens up new vistas and connectivity to major commercial hubs like Bangalore, Chennai, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Pune that is a must for the city’s long-term commercial growth and development.

There is also a long-felt need for inter-city super fast express trains connecting Mysore with other major commercial centres in central and north Karnataka including Davangere and Hubli.

R. Krishna Kumar

Rly gate signals to run on solar power

On a green path, the Thiruvananthapuram railway division authorities are close to running its 384 level crossing gates on solar power. The first solar-powered level crossing will be functional this month itself, said sources.

During the presentation of Railway Budget 2013-14, railway minister Pawan Kumar Bansal had announced the railways’ plans to harness solar power to energize 1,000 level crossings in the country to help the railways avail fiscal incentives, including tax breaks and depreciation benefits, besides a chance to earn carbon credits.

According to officials, solar lighting system would be used at level crossing gates. They will be equipped with solar panels, which will have charge control, back-up battery and LED light fittings. The solar panels will have the capacity to generate 1 KW power.

The initiative is part of the railways’ pro-environment action plan and energy conservation measures to use renewable energy sources.

“In the first phase, level crossings in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal will be powered with solar energy. We have 384 level crossings under Thiruvananthapuram division and they will be converted to solar-based in phase 1. The first solar powered level crossing has already been set up near Neyyattinkara,” said a top official.

Thiruvananthapuram division has 350 manned and 34 unmanned level crossings at present. “An amount of Rs 60 lakh has been earmarked for the solar-powered level crossings, which is actually insufficient. However, we can at least begin the new initiative. A tender for purchasing and installing the solar system will be invited in the coming,” the official added.

Advance booking period for train tickets reduced to 60 days.

Railways has reduced advance booking period from four months to two months from May 1 as part of its efforts to prevent touts from cornering bulk of tickets.

The advance reservation period (ARP) for booking reserved train tickets will be reduced from existing 120 days to 60 days (excluding the date of journey) from May 1, according to a Railway notification issued today.

However, all the bookings done up to April 30 under the existing ARP of 120 days will remain intact.

“The reduction of advance reservation period to 60 days will be a deterrent for touts who book bulk tickets in advance. We hope the reduction of booking period will help genuine travellers,” a senior Railways official said.

“It has been found that passengers generally book their tickets two months in advance before the journey,” the official said.

Cancellation of the booking made beyond the ARP of 60 days will, however, be permitted. There will be no change in the case of ARP limit of 360 days for foreign tourists.

Currently, tatkal tickets are issued only on the production of self-attested photocopy of a valid identity proof. No agents are allowed to book tatkal tickets from 10 AM to 12 PM over the internet.

Railways conduct regular raids at rail stations to keep a check on tout menace.


Central Organization of Railway Electrification landmark of electrifying 937 route kms

Electrification of about 937 RKMs (route kilometre) till March, the Central Organization of Railway Electrification (CORE) is a landmark for the organisation, said Jagdev Kalia CORE general manager addressing media persons on Tuesday.

Earlier, the best electrification record was of about 915 RKM in 2009-10.

He also stated that this year, the organisation has completed commission of railway safety (CRS) inspection of about 1159 RKM, the highest achievement in the history of CORE surpassing previous best of about 992 RKM in 1990-91.

Under the Lucknow project, CRS inspections carried out include Hardoi-Rosa section, Utratia-Pakhrauli, Pakhrauli-Mughalsarai. In Hajipur project, besides CRS inspections, including Chhapra-Baruni via Shahpur Patoree and Goldenganj-Chhapra Kachcherui.

In the Ambala project, CRS inspections include Shakurbasti-Rohtak, Moradabad-Rosa and Suchipind-Chakki Bank. Under the Kota project, route of Ujjain-Indore, Dewas-Maksi and Jhansi-Moth were inspected by CRS. Under the Chennai project, however, CRS inspections included Trivandrum-Kanniyakumari and Nagercoil-Tiruneveli.

Later, railway week function of the CORE was organised at North Central zone cultural centre (NCZCC) where cash reward and commendation certificates were awarded to officers and employees.

The best project shield was given to the Lucknow project while the second best shield was awarded to Chennai project.

Photos of Kalka-Shimla rail track on display in city

Sanjay Kaushal and Shubh Mohan Singh have travelled the rail journey between Kalka and Shimla several times, and the result is From Earth to Sky, a photographic journey of the Kalka-Shimla railway track, which is being exhibited at the Punjab Kala Bhawan, Sector 16, Chandigarh till April 21.

Some seen and many unseen aspects of this journey, places, people, stations is what the two travel enthusiasts and shutterbugs have been able to capture in the 58 photographs.

Kalra, who works with an insurance company and Singh, a psychiatrist by profession, have spent most of their weekends and holidays rambling in the hills and soaking in the silence, beauty and timelessness of this track, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

While Kalra walked and photographed his way from Kalka to Shimla, Singh confesses he was more laidback. But both have strived to capture every mood and nuance of this journey, without being encumbered by nostalgia or clichés.

The starting point or ‘The Arrival’ is a serene shot of dawn in the Kalka Railway Station. A picture of Loco 706, a coach on the track, men at work on the track to ensure a smooth journey and KC520, one of the oldest steam engines running to date gives a glimpse of the spirit of the trip.

What makes the exhibition absorbing is the effort that has gone into incorporating the landscape, life and people on the stations and tracks.

There are as many as 20 stations between Kalka and Shimla, and the photographs give a glimpse of how time stands still here. Quaint, silent, green, clean, unaffected by machines, the photographers admit you can spend hours here.

The halts, vendors, passengers, rain, snow, wind.they come alive in the photographs. “The staff is so polite and friendly, and the railways employees went out of their way to guide us about train timings to where a better camera angle can be found. This exhibition is a tribute to them,” reflect the two.

The train on bride 226, a photograph capturing the terrace farms, a view of the station from the Barog station verandah, a small tea stall at Dharampur, a black and white depicting people huddling for warmth as the mist envelops the train, a snapshot of the proud Prabhu Dyal Singh, a loco pilot on his day of retirement….this journey through the lens of Kaushal and Singh inspires you to book a ticket

Efforts on to make stations garbage-free

In a bid to clean railway stations in the Capital, the Northern Railway has helped NGO Chintan to set up a bottle-crushing machine at the New Delhi station.

“The units has become functional and is handling 6,000 bottles a day,” said a senior railway official. The NGO is also running a garbage segregation facility at the station.

The four major railway stations, including New Delhi, generates 80 tonnes of solid waste, mostly used water bottles, per month. The Northern Railway has provided a site for waste segregation to the NGO, where 135 waste-pickers help recycle about 30 per cent of the total waste.

“Two machines — one for cutting bottles from the cap area and another for crushing —have started operating at the New Delhi station. Every day, we are now handling nearly 6,000 bottles taken off 20 trains coming to the station. They then sent for recycling. Earlier, we used to take bottles to places where these machines were available,” said Nidhi Mishra of Chintan.

On the occasion of Earth Day, senior railway officials inspected these facilities and promised further help. Hundreds of passengers took pledge that they will not litter the station premises and will always crush water bottles after use.

“Of the total waste generated, 40% is wet waste. The South Delhi Municipal Corporation takes this bit to its landfill at Okhla. The rest is dry and comprises paper, aluminum and plastic. This is sent for recycling,” said Mishra. The railways allowed Chintan to pick up waste and segregate it three years ago.

e-toilets to come up at Tripunithura Railway Station

The Tripunithura Railway Station may soon be able to boast of e-toilets, the first in the district. The e-toilets will be constructed using the funds of P Rajeev MP.

“Many such toilets have been installed at various schools in the district. A part of the fund will be set aside for an e-toilet at the railway station,” P Rajeev said.

He was speaking to reporters during his visit to the Tripunithura Railway station along with Divisional Railway Manager (DRM) Rajesh Agarwal on Saturday.

A proposal to start ‘she-toilet, exclusively for women, has also been mooted. The she-toilet facility will consist of a sanitary-napkin vending machine and an incinerator for destroying the used napkins.

The decision to set up the high-technology e-toilet will be a relief to the passengers at Tripunithura which lacks proper toilet facility at the station.

Published in: on April 23, 2013 at 4:26 pm  Leave a Comment  
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