7,000 people died taking a shortcut across the train tracks in Mumbai

Thinking of taking that shortcut to get to the other side of the railway track? Think again, as it could be a fatal mistake. In the last three years, about 7,000 people died while crossing tracks on the suburban rail network in the city. Though railway officials claim that due to their many initiatives and efforts to spread awareness amongst commuters, the figure is fast falling, but such accidents still make headlines and need to be averted completely.

Mind the gap
One of the main reasons for a rise in accidents is the railway tracks dotted with slums along their edges. Slum dwellers are often seen trespassing on railway tracks in order to get from one side to the other. To identify such locations, the Mumbai Railway Vikas Corporation (MRVC) Ltd will be conducting surveys on these trouble spots on both western and central lines.

“There are many locations between stations where people, especially from slums, damage the walls along the tracks and trespass on the tracks,” said P Ranjan, chief PRO, MRVC. This causes many accidents, which at times also result in deaths, he added.

MRVC plans to appoint JJ School for carrying out this study. Sources said that there are at least 20-25 such sensitive locations between Churchgate-Virar,CST-Kasara/Karjat/Khopoli and CST-Panvel lines on the suburban section. Officials claimed that it becomes difficult for motormen to salvage the situation if a trespasser springs up all of a sudden and comes under the wheels resulting in deaths. Such accidents also affect the morale of the motormen.

Under this survey, the MRVC plans to identify the areas where safety walls are broken, what substitutes can be used to create barriers along the tracks, alternatives for slum dwellers such as different routes to cross tracks with no danger involved, and permanent solution to trespassing.

Numbers talk
According to the figures obtained from Government Railway Police (GRP), stations such as Kurla, Thane, Kalyan, Wadala and Vashi have seen higher number of deaths. While on the Western line, Andheri, Borivli and Vasai see majority of deaths. These are railway stations where GRP has its police stations.

Between 2010 to May 2013, Kurla leads the death tally on the main line and the harbour line with 888 deaths, Vashi follows with 438. On the western line, Borivli has seen over 788 deaths in the last three years. However, if it’s any consolation, the total number of deaths along the suburban line has depicted a downward trend.

In 2010, about 2,152 deaths due to crossing tracks were registered, which fell to 2,023 in 2011 and came further down to 1,979 deaths in 2012. There have been 773 deaths so far in 2013.

Officials said that people tend to take a shorter route during peak hours when most foot-over-bridges (FOB) are crowded.

“As a way to escape the crowds, these people cross the tracks. At times they also come walking on to the tracks after entering the railway lines through damaged walls,” said a railway official.

Another senior railway police official said that unless the walls are fully concretised, these incidents of deaths while trespassing will continue. Among other steps taken to curb deaths and injuries due too line-crossing are through anti-trespass awareness campaigns, installation of track dividers between two parallel tracks, more FOBs at platforms and in-between stretches and construction of boundary walls.


Published in: on July 27, 2013 at 3:52 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Mumbai’s new railway coaches set to be sleek, airy and more comfortable

The new train for Mumbai that is expected to be in the city by the end of this year has begun to take shape. At first glance, the train looks sleeker than the ones currently on the tracks, mostly because the train’s sides are straighter than the ‘bell’ shape that is distinctive of Indian trains.

The straight sidewall, which is common to foreign trains, is expected to add speed to the train because of better aerodynamics. The train will be powered by the Bombardier transportation electrical system and not the Siemens one that powers current locals.

This train too will have the white and purple look except that the purple will be a few shades deeper and will be painted around the door in such a way that it could camouflage the ugly red stains of gutkha and paan that are bound to come along the way.

The windows for the motorman are slightly smaller than those existing in trains now running. This, because there have been complaints that the bigger windows allow too much sunlight into the motorman’s cabin during the harsh Mumbai summers, resulting in some of them (motorman) bothered by reflection while sighting the all-important signals.

The insides of the trains would more or less look the same, said officials overseeing its construction in the Integral Coach Factory (ICF) in Chennai except that the new train will have better crafted seats and grab handles.

The building of Mumbai’s trains has been nothing short of an art, according to train

engineers. It is a mass transport object that has to be built to take some of the heaviest pounding during its lifespan, what with some 16 people crammed into every square metre of its floor during the infamous Mumbai rush hour.

“The current trains give better ventilation thanks to the air blower running right through the middle of the roof. The steel rod partitions also give the trains an airy feel. The lights running through the middle of the roof also add to the atmosphere. However, as with all new trains introduced in the city, these trains also lent themselves to a lot of scope for improvement. We are trying that with the new local being created in ICF at the moment,” said an official.

Mumbai Railway Vikas Corporation managing director Rakesh Saksena believes the new rake would be a healthy improvement on the current ones.

“The body will be of stainless steel, like coaches used by the metro systems worldwide. The sides would be a lot straighter. Most important, for the passenger, the air unit that blows air into the coaches would be far sturdier than the current ones,” said Saksena.


Keeping track of railway history

Southern Railway hopes to showcase the 150 years of its existence with a museum in Tiruchi.

Maps, bells and lamps made of “China Glass”. Staff badges, clocks and yellowing piles of paperwork. Huddled together under the soaring ceiling of the ‘Heritage Room’ of Southern Railway’s General Office building in Tiruchi, they seem to be passengers waiting for their journey to start.

And, in a way, perhaps they are. For these artefacts of a bygone era are to form a part of the upcoming railway museum. The collection, curated by an in-house team of officials, includes items such as old manuals, maps, gazettes, and files containing Indo-Ceylon Steamer service records and photographs in addition to out-of-use equipment such as stamping sticks, belt buckles of foremen and signal devices.

The museum is meant to be part of the erstwhile South Indian Railway’s sesquicentennial (150 years) celebrations, though as Mrs Manjula Rangarajan, Divisional Railway Manager, concedes, it’s a little behind schedule.

“The building is now complete, we are working on the electrification. Due to fund constraints, it is not possible for us to throw open the entire museum in one go. So we thought we’d do it in phases. The central hall is ready, and as part of our sesquicentennial celebrations, we thought we would inaugurate this part of the museum. We have a broad idea of where we want to place the exhibits, though it is subject to change in the future,” said Mrs Manjula in an interview with The Hindu.

The site shortlisted for the Railway Heritage Centre, as the museum will be known, is adjacent to the Community Hall near the Tiruchi railway junction, with a total area of about 15 acres. The original station building of the city that was then known as Trichinopoly, built in 1886, will be spruced up to serve as the office and ticket sales counter of the museum.

When we visited, the flooring tiles were being laid in the central exhibition hall, built in a quasi-Raj style. The proposed centre (with an approximate budget of Rs20mn) will be allocating 500 square metres for indoor exhibits. Besides the transport artefacts mentioned above, there is provision for a study room for researching railway history, philately on railway themes, and a digital archive of rare documents related to the South Indian Railway.

“We are planning a family-friendly destination,” said Mrs Manjula of the project. The indoor exhibits will be complemented by an external visitor area containing shady alcoves and eateries, and even a toy train and one or two vintage locomotive engines.

As to what she feels is the most significant part of the heritage collection, Mrs Manjula pointed out to the vintage paperwork that “tell us how we used to run the railways 150 years ago, and how much of it is still in place. It seems we have very good systems in place which are time-tested. Whatever mishaps occur would be mainly due to human error. The signalling systems were rudimentary, technological advancements may have occurred, but the system remains the same.”

The fragile paper documents need a climate-controlled storage system, which, for now, says Mrs Manjula, is still to be finalised.

Reflecting on the future of train travel in India, she said, “I think we are here to stay definitely for a couple of centuries. Our avatars may change, but we will always be there because it will take some time for our people to move away from the railways to the roadways as they have done in the West. More people are indeed taking flights to their destinations (in the domestic sector), but it’s a very large pie, and we have a very large share of that pie.”

Mr S Sayinathan, Traffic Inspector and one of the collection’s curators, says that only after he got formally involved in the project did he realise the indelible link between the railways and India’s history. “After coming to this department to preserve heritage material, I found out that the South Indian Railway is a great organisation,” he said, adding that the development of rail routes throughout the country reflected the India’s growth as well.

“Among our records we have details of how a 542-km stretch on the Tiruchi to Erode route was converted into broad gauge in a mere five hours, on the Pamban cantilever bridge that connects the Palk Strait to mainland India, and which opened to traffic in 1914, and the Unesco heritage status-Nilgiri Mountain railway (inaugurated in 1899 and still in service),” said Mr Sayinathan.

The museum project has also sparked interest among the families of the British staff who worked in South Indian Railway, says Mr Sayinathan, many of who have got in touch and shared their own memorabilia related to the years spent by their forefathers in India.

In 2010, Southern Railway published a glossy volume of rare photographs and historical information titled Marvels of The South Indian Railway, compiled by S Subramhanyan, then-Divisional Railway Manager, as part of the sesquicentennial celebrations.

Considering the potential value of the antiques inside, the Heritage Room is kept locked and out of bounds to the public. The room has the railway security force personnel’s protection throughout the day, and fire alarm systems are in place to avert potential disasters.

An expert from the Saraswathi Mahal in Thanjavur has helped to guide the team in preserving the artefacts for posterity against termites. But dealing with the mice and other rodents has required the services of the rather more simple mousetrap.

Mr Sayinathan checks the authenticity of each piece individually, a process made easier, he says, due to the British habit of stamping every item with the name of the company. “We cannot display all the old materials, because some may still be in use,” he said. “[But] we want to showcase our history to the public, so that they can understand our achievement.”


Published in: on July 27, 2013 at 3:42 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Warning system to alert loco drivers

A couple of new experiments are paying dividends in keeping loco drivers on the alert and raking in more revenue for the Railways.

The newly appointed member traffic Devi Prasad Pande has introduced a device in some sections of the South Western Railway which hoots warning to the loco drivers about approaching red signal and that he has to pull the brakes.

The idea was introduced as it was found that in some cases the drivers overshot the signal even as they applied the brakes.

Capacity increased

As for earning revenue, the Railways have decided to increase the capacity of all trains on routes where the demand for berths and seats were high. Each train would be provided with two additional coaches, especially 3 AC to raise revenue.

Aiming at a new revenue model, Mr. Pande said the objective is to augment capacity by ensuring train-wise and route-wise profitability. The railways would review the capacity of all the 7000 trains being operated daily and restructure them as per their requirement.


Rlys asked to decide soon on cost for posting GRP in trains

The Bombay High Court today directed the Railways to decide by August 30 a proposal to bear 50 per cent of the cost incurred to deploy additional 100 GRP personnel across suburban railway stations and in local trains to ensure safety of women commuters.

A division bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice M S Sanklecha was hearing a suo moto (on its own) public interest litigation based on newspaper reports and a PIL filed by NGO Help Mumbai Foundation regarding women’s safety in the city and while travelling in local trains.

On the last hearing, the court was informed that on request from the Government Railway Police (GRP) for additional 100 Home Guards the state government had sanctioned it but had asked the railways to bear 50 per cent of the cost. However, the railways did not agree to it.

The railways today submitted an affidavit stating that the proposal was forwarded to the railway board on July 22 for sanction.

“Considering the urgency involved we direct the railways board to decide the proposal by August 30,” the bench said.

The court also directed the state government to take a decision by August 31 on whether it would be accepting the recommendations made by the Justice Dharmadhikari committee, set up to look into women safety issues.


Published in: on July 27, 2013 at 3:36 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Golden Rock Loco Shed adjuged the best

The Golden Rock locomotive shed, home for many variants of diesel locomotives here has been adjudged the best among the four loco sheds in the Southern Railway zone in the 2012-13 fiscal.

The 41-year-old Tiruchi shed, the largest and the lone shed in the zone to home high horsepower EMD locomotives, bagged the ‘Performance Efficiency Shield’ for the fifth time. The shield was presented to the Tiruchi shed recently, after taking into account various parameters including less number of loco failures homed by the shed, less consumption of lubricants, less cycle time for heavy schedules and for carrying out crew-friendly modifications in the diesel engines.

The other diesel loco sheds in the zone are located at Erode, Ernakulam and Tondiarpet in Chennai. The shield was constituted in 2004-05, and the Tiruchi shed has bagged it five times, say railway officials.

Among the four sheds, Golden Rock accounts for maximum holding of diesel locomotives with the figure reaching 163 including over 90 ‘Alco’ locos and several ‘EMD’ locos which are capable of reaching a maximum speed of 120 kilometres per hour.

The Tiruchi shed has so far received 42 ‘EMD’ locos equipped with micro processors are longer and powerful than the ‘Alco’ diesel locos. The 4,500 horsepower EMD locos have better fuel efficiency than the conventional diesel engines and have higher fuel and lubricant oil capacity. Officials said eight more EMD locos were expected which would increase the tally to 50.

Facilities available

Additional infrastructure facilities have been created in the loco shed to home the EMD locos. Two new bays with elevated platforms have been constructed inside the sprawling shed to exclusively accommodate EMD locos. The bays can accommodate five such locos at a time, say officials. The Tiruchi shed is the only one in Southern Railway to have a Diesel Traction Training Centre (DTTC) within its premises to impart theoretical and field level training for newly recruited Assistant Loco Pilots, maintenance engineers and staff. Refresher courses are organised by the DTTC for Loco Pilots and Assistant Loco Pilots already in service periodically, say officials.


Vestibule between ages going out of view

The 110-year-old Aryankavu viaduct is being jacketed with concrete to allow broad-gauge trains to thunder past the massive structure

Beauty can be transient. Here in Aryankavu, a lady whose charm has only grown over the years is going to wear a veil.

Just two weeks more to marvel at the majestic 110-year-old viaduct across a valley in Aryankavu on the Shengottai-Kollam railway route, designed and built by British engineers.

The landmark 13-arch, 102-metre-long viaduct, which gracefully carried metre-gauge trains, mesmerised everyone all these years. The viaduct requires to be strengthened, jacketed with concrete, to carry broad-gauge trains.

The preliminary work is on. The work will provide the equivalent of an exoskeleton to the rectangular piers of the viaduct built with neatly cut blocks of granite and surkhi (an ancient mix of charcoal, egg white, lime, river sand, tender coconut water and jaggery). But the front portion of the piers will, however, be spared — a peephole, perhaps, for posterity.

Railways allowed it respecting local sentiments that the structure be preserved as a heritage property. Railways cannot afford to leave the structure unused because building a new viaduct through the forested ghat section is a costly, difficult proposition. Hence jacketing is considered economical and practical, lengthening the utility of the structure by half a century more.

The contract for the Rs. 3-crore work has been awarded. Workers, on sliding platforms, are drilling the granite blocks on three sides of the piers, leaving the front portion untouched. The core of the work will begin before Onam and is expected to be completed in five months. When the work is completed, the viaduct will not look the same from any side.

The work on viaduct began in the late 1890s and was completed by 1903. The metre-gauge service was commissioned in November 1904 by the then Maharaja of Travancore, Sree Moolam Tirunal Rama Varma.


Rlys plans duplicate trains

To increase its carrying capacity on routes which have high number of passengers, the Railways plan to run duplicate trains. These trains will follow main trains with a short time-gap. The ministry will also attach additional coaches in important trains. This is to be done without delay, said an official.

Disclosing it to media persons, new Member (Traffic) Railway Board, Devi Prasad Pandey said that we can implement it without delay. He said at the moment, production of wagons is at a satisfactory level and that there will not be any shortage of it. Pandey said that the railways has the required capacity.

He argued that the ministry is in search of avenues to enhance track capacity. Pandey dismissed apprehension that the condition of the track is not good enough to allow it. “We are maintaining our tracks in a more efficient manner. The new technology has been introduced and it is doing well,” he said. This would be an improvement to what has been termed as special trains. Railways run special trains to ease out rush during festive seasons. On the contrary, duplicate trains will run regularly.

Pandey said that the ministry is doing path analysis to know the requirement of different routes.


Want train ticket ? Soon, just look for a kirana shop

Booking train tickets may soon become as easy as getting your phone recharged from the shop next door, if IRCTC has its way.

To widen the adoption of SMS-based ticket booking, the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) is keen on following a model wherein a passenger can just walk into a shop next door, pay cash, and book tickets.

IRCTC is an arm of the Indian Railways, which handles Internet-based, and now SMS-based, train ticket bookings.

The booking details can be delivered on the passengers’ cell-phone and the SMS on his/her mobile phone can function as the train ticket – both these steps are already functional in the current set up.

IRCTC is thinking of various ways to make the SMS-based train ticket booking attractive. The facility, launched a few weeks ago, has not yet caught on, with below 150 tickets getting booked a day. This is less than one per cent of the total reserved train tickets booked.


The lack of adoption of mobile-based payment mechanism is a key bottleneck for SMS-based ticketing. IRCTC Chairman and Managing Director Rakesh Tandon told Business Line, “A large part of our population – be it from economically weaker or economically stronger section – does not use mobile phones to make payments. They make all their transactions in cash.”

To get around this bottleneck, IRCTC now wants to work with shopkeepers so that they act as intermediaries and accept cash from passengers for booking tickets.

“The idea is to try and make use of a shopkeeper or a retailer with a mobile phone to make the payment to IRCTC. Any person anywhere should be able to walk in to a shop, hand over cash to a shopkeeper and get the ticket booking message details delivered on his phone. The proposal is at an idea stage. Telecom firms can come with a suggestion as they will benefit if more tickets were booked from cell phones,” Tandon said.

About 31 crore reserved train tickets are booked a year.

Shopkeepers could enter into a pre-paid credit deposit scheme with IRCTC, allowing IRCTC to debit money from the shopkeeper’s account for a train ticket booked. This would take away the problems in ticket booking caused due to hitches in Internet banking.

Incidentally, mobile firms are already using such a model to provide credit top-up services to their pre-paid customers. However, for train ticket booking, this business model will have to be tweaked, given the large-scale shortage of reserved train berths in peak travel times.


Given that many tickets will be waitlisted and could require cancellation, working out the dynamics of ticket cancellation, cash repayment to the passenger will have to be sorted out. Providing these facilities at lowest transaction cost will be another challenge.

Tandon maintains that given the low Internet connectivity in the country, SMS-based ticketing will be the way forward to make available booking facilities in rural areas.

About 15 per cent of India’s population has access to the Internet, while about 70 per cent has access to mobile phones.


Published in: on July 23, 2013 at 4:06 pm  Leave a Comment  

Railways to eliminate level crossings

As Indian Railways have decided for gradual elimination of all the level crossings for ensuring safety of the commuters in the coming years, North Central Railway is too taking steps in this direction. About 100 railway crossings will be replaced with the construction of ROBs (Railway Over Bridges), RUBs (Railway Under Bridge) and LHB ( Limited Height Subway) in the current financial year.

Indian Railways has targeted to remove all the level crossings on its route as these crossings are not only causing safety problems but also create operational hindrances. The unmanned crossings will be removed by constructing LHS/RUB.

These railway crossings have been spread over the entire area of North Central Railway incorporating the divisions of Allahabad, Agra and Jhansi. North Central Railway has planned to construct 75 LHS/RUB during the year 2013-14. In addition to this, about 25 ROB will also be constructed in this year.

In the North Central Railway region there are about 1,512 level crossings. Among them, 1,028 are manned railway crossings and 453 are unmanned. There are five cattle crossings and 26 canal crossings. Out of the total crossings in NCR region, there are 395 level crossings in Allahabad division, 313 level crossings in Jhansi division and the remaining in Agra division.

In Allahabad division, many LHB will be constructed replacing the level crossings on the Allahabad-Mughalsarai section. This includes level crossing number 11 (Km 748/7-9), 12 (Km 755/19-21), 24 (Km 785/1-3) and 25 (Km 787/21-23). The approximate cost for construction of LHB at these four crossings is about Rs 16 crore.

In addition to this, about four more LHB will be constructed replacing the level crossings in the Allahabad-Mughalsarai section. This includes level crossing number 120 ( Km 695/5-7), level 123 (Km 709/11-13), 124 (Km 718/11-13) and 1 (Km 720/15-17). The approximate cost for construction of these LHBs at these four crossings is also about Rs 16 crore.

Further, Railway Over Bridges will be constructed at the level crossing number 6-A in Mirzapur, 119 B at Kailhut and 15 C at Jigna. From railway side, there is the policy to remove all the gates over level crossings. Since, 2003, about 45 ROBs and 15 LHS has been completed but this year , there is an ambitious target of completing 100 RUB/RUB/LHS. 527 level crossing gates have already been interlocked over NCR. To overcome the problem of boom breakage, crossings have been provided with sliding booms.

Accidents at level crossing gates have been a cause of concern for Railways especially at the unmanned level crossings gates. In order to prevent these incidents, special awareness campaign , using an innovative means of mobile video van has been started on North Central Railway, along with the conventional methods. The van is equipped with high definition LED television.

Many campaigns through newspapers, TV and radio are also being organised. Street plays are also organised to spread awareness about the safety measures to be taken at unmanned crossings. The public awareness campaign has also been taken to counsel villagers, educational institutions and road users and make them aware of the provision of Motor Vehicles Act and Railway Act by distributing posters, pamphlets, handbills in gram panchayats, markets, petrol pumps and other public places.

In addition to this, awareness is also created among people on the occasion of International Level Crossing Awareness Day (ILCAD) all over the world in which there are about 42 member countries. These countries include USA, Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, India, Pakistan, Georgia, Mongolia.

An official of Indian Railways said, “This year we have an ambitious target of constructing about 100 ROB, RUB/LHB replacing the level crossings and we are hopeful that using our resources we will be able to achieve the target. Awareness are also being created among the people regarding the precautions that should be used while crossing the level crossings.”