Dombivli stn has most passengers, beats Thane

Ticket sales data show Dombivli has emerged as a major destination on Central Railway’s suburban network, eclipsing traditional frontrunner Thane. Ticket sales in April-July 2013 show the average number of passengers buying tickets in Dombivli was 2.18 lakh.

Thane, despite being the most crowded station on the entire Mumbai suburban network, came second with 2.14 lakh passengers. CR’s chief public relations officer Atul Rane said, “The figures include sale of card and season tickets. While Thane has more people in ticket queues, the actual number of tickets booked in Dombivli was the highest in Mumbai.”

Thane, in fact, sells 50,766 tickets per day compared to 30,842 in Dombivli and 30,956 in CST. A CR official explained, “A ticket is issued for single as well as multiple passengers. If one takes into account the total number of passengers booked on the total tickets sold, Dombivli eclipsed Thane by 4,000 passengers.”

Thane held the record for booking the largest number of passengers during the same period last year, with a total of 2.25 lakh passengers. At the time, Dombivli and CST were second and third with 2.06 lakh and 1.98 lakh passengers respectively.

CR is also giving priority to Dombivli in station improvement. For example, after Thane, Dombivli will be the first station to get an escalator, ahead of Dadar or Kurla.

Sudhakar Mahajan of the Dombivli Passengers’ Association said, “Dombivli has grown tremendously over the past several years and this also reflects in ticket sale data.” There are only 12 booking windows in Dombivli, which the association said was grossly inadequate.

Mahajan said, “In the last six months, the situation has improved due to deployment of additional staff. However, booking infrastructure like ATVMs and more operational windows need to be installed so that average time spent in the queue can be brought down to five minutes.”

Published in: on August 30, 2013 at 3:37 pm  Leave a Comment  

Indian Railway Runs 1400 Coaches With 3,800 Bio-toilets

Indian Railways, which is one of the world’s largest railway network, is running 1,400 coaches with 3,800 bio-toilets in various trains as part of its commitment to provide hygienic environment to passengers.

In the first four months of the current year, Indian Railways have fitted more bio-toilets on coaches than the entire number of bio-toilets fitted in the past three years, the Ministry of Railways announced.

In the first four months of the current financial year, the number of bio-toilets fitted in passenger coaches were 2,285 in comparison to 1,337 bio-toilets fitted in 2012-13, 169 in 2011-12 and 57 in the year 2010-11.

The first train, Gwalior-Varanasi Bundelkhand Express, fitted with bio-toilets is running since January 2011.

“After receiving encouraging feedback from the users and railway maintenance staff, the pace of fitment of these bio-toilets in Indian Railways passenger coaches has been ramped up,” said the statement.

In its endeavour to take all necessary steps to keep station premises clean, Indian Railways is now manufacturing all new conventional passenger coaches fitted with bio-toilets.

These bio-toilets are fitted below the coach floor underneath the lavatories and the human waste discharged into them is acted upon by a colony of anaerobic bacteria that convert human waste mainly into water and small amount of gases (methane and CO2).

The gases escape into atmosphere and waste is discharged after chlorination onto the track. Human waste thus does not fall on the railway track. This is environmentally friendly and also improves the working condition for the railway track staff, it added.

As of December 2012, Indian Railways transported over 25 million passengers daily and over nine billion on an annual basis.

The old-fashioned open-hole toilet in about its 50,000 coaches that ply the country’s big railway system resulted in it being called, the largest open toilet in the world.

Published in: on August 29, 2013 at 4:45 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

Declining service life of tracks keeps railways on their toes

With the life span of railway tracks coming down sharply over the years due to increasing passenger-freight operations, higher axle loads on dense traffic routes and corrosion, Southern Railway has set a rail renewal target of 72 kilometres this fiscal as a key component of its measures to maintain safety.

Going by standard estimates, a 60-kg rail segment with a traffic density projection of 800 Gross Million Tonnes (GMT) is about 15 years, but this conventional calculus is being constantly revised, as many rail segments are coming up for renewal in less than half that time, Railway officials said.

With a route length of 5,000 kilometres, Southern Railway is the fifth largest rail network among the 17 zonal railways in Indian Railways network. It runs about 434 suburban trains and 742 non-suburban trains and transports around 2.4 million passengers on an average every day. On the freight front, the originating freight loading from April to July this year was 14.81 million tonnes, the 14 per cent increase over last year being the best-ever loading for the first four months of any year in Southern Railway’s recorded history.

“The upkeep of the vast rail network involves a well-drawn out daily, monthly and periodic maintenance schedule involving men and machines,” said S. Anantharaman, Chief Safety Officer, Southern Railway.

For instance, a track recording car to detect defects, twists or faulty alignment is deployed once every four months in Grade A segments (based on a set of wear-and-tear parameters), once in six months for Grade B sections and once a year for other segments. The data is analysed to arrive at a Track Geometry Index (TGI) value that determines the course of action.

Ultrasonic Flaw Detectors (USFD) to spot weld failures, Oscillation Monitoring Systems to measure vertical and lateral displacement from a normal axis of coaches moving across a particular rail section and tight tamping to bind together caked up ballast are also part of standard procedure, officials said.

Apart from machines, the Railways also deploys gangmen and keymen to physically inspect every bit of the 5,000-km route length.

In the four months of this fiscal, yard derailments have halved from 22 in the same period last year, while mainline accidents dropped from eight to just one.

One of the most common causes for derailments is weld failure. In-house studies in the Railways estimate that rail and weld failures currently account for over 60 per cent of engineering-related mishaps – a sharp rise from the 25 per cent about four years ago.

Commissioner of Railway Safety S. K. Mittal’s preliminary report on the derailment of Muzaffarpur-Yesvantpur Express near Arakkonam on April 10 too has upheld rail weld failure as the cause of the accident that killed one person.

The other significant threat to the health of tracks is coming from corrosion due to exposure to coastal atmosphere or contact with toilet waste. It is estimated that corrosion causes fracture of an estimated 20 per cent of rail lines.

“The Chennai-Gudur and Chennai-Villupuram lines are among the worst affected lines due to corrosion,” said a track engineering official.

Though the Railways has started using corrosion-resistant alloy-rails to beat the problem, the proportion of these rail segments is minuscule with regard to the magnitude of the problem.

Food portals open up options for train travellers

Twenty five-year-old Vrinda Kapoor often travels by train to meet her parents in Mumbai. However, she is unable to eat the insipid train food and is forced to binge on chips and biscuits. But not anymore, thanks to food portals that deliver to her favourite chicken pizza at her seat, guaranteed hot and fresh.

“Travelling is easier now as I can now eat whatever I like instead of the watery dal and bland subzis served by the pantry and are a sorry excuse for food,” Kapoor, a student of Jawaharlal Nehru University here, told IANS.

Continental, Chinese, Italian, Mughlai and even fast food, varied cuisines are on offer by portals like, and

These portals, who have partnered with restaurants across the country, give their customers the freedom to order food from any famous eatery along the route.

The meals can be booked online or through phone by submitting train details or the passenger name record (PNR) number.

The customer can then choose any restaurant en route the destination and the meal is delivered at a pre-decided station. Payment can be made online as well as on delivery.
“Today’s customers are quality conscious and know better than just to pick up food from an average hawker, they look more at multi cuisine delicacies,” Abhishek Agrawal, managing director at Comesum, told IANS.

Comesum, started 40 years ago as railway caterers and apart from delivering meals in trains also operates 25 multi-cuisine food plazas that are open 24X7 round the year at railway and Metro stations in Delhi and around the country.
“We offer different cuisines to our customers but Indian food especially thalis (meal made of selection of several dishes) are quite favourite,” said Agrawal adding that the cost of a thali ranges between Rs.80 and Rs.150 depending on the food items selected.

While Comesum offers food prepared at its own outlets, and have partnered with restaurants and eateries., which started operations in Aug 2012, has tied up with over 200 restaurants and caterers at over 80 stations and has delivered food to about 60,000 passengers.
“Indian Railways is the lifeline of passengers but the quality of food leaves a lot to be desired… we provide fresh food across all major trains and you won’t have to depend on the pantry food anymore,” Travelkhana CEO Pushpinder Singh told IANS.

The Indian Railways ferries 23 million travellers and 2.65 million tonnes of goods daily on 12,000 passenger and 7,000 freight trains. The network is spread over 64,000 route km and has 7,083 stations.

At present, only 302 trains have pantry cars.

Describing Travelkhana’s functioning, Pushpinder Singh said that GPS-enabled mobile applications keeps them updated about train delays and diversions. In case an order does not reach the passenger at a particular station, it is delivered at the next one.

Serving both vegetarian and non-vegetarian food, Pushpinder Singh has his eyes set on expanding to 30 new stations soon as well collaborating with more outlets.

“We are in talks with McDonalds,” he said.

Meanwhile, Nashik based, which started in Nov 2012 offers only vegetarian meals and specialises in thalis from different states.

“We are trying to promote the Indian food culture and offer thalis of various states,” said founder Piyush Kasliwal adding that the portal is offering its services at 145 stations across the country and has so far catered to over 30,000 clients.

“The vegetarian thali, is priced between Rs.100 and Rs.200 and the customers don’t mind the pricing because they know that they are getting quality food,” added Kasliwal, who now plans to expand to 200 stations.

With several complaints against the food served in trains, the portals have definitely come to the rescue of the people.

Railway Minister Mallikarjun Kharge recently told the Lok Sabha that 1,279 complaints about sub-standard food were received in 2012, of which 115 were for lack of hygienic conditions in superfast premier trains like the Rajdhani and Shatabdi Express.

So, the next time you travel on a train, remember that your favourite butter chicken or masala dosa or chicken manchurian is just a call or a click away.

(Rahul Vaishnavi can be contacted at

Published in: on August 29, 2013 at 4:38 pm  Comments (1)  
Tags: ,

Railway freight tariff to go up from Oct 1

Railway freight tariff will go up from October 1 due to the increase in fuel cost but passenger fares will remain untouched, according to Minister of State for Railways Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury.

However, he did not quantify the percentage of hike in freight tariff saying it was a budget proposal to review the fuel adjustment component (FAC) after six months.

“Tariff has already been increased. As per the proposal of the budget, it will be hiked again in October,” said Mr. Chowdhury on the sidelines of a conference here.

Railways had earlier hiked the freight rate by 5.7 per cent in April 1 while linking the fuel adjustment component (FAC) with goods tariff. FAC is linked with fuel and energy prices and calculated accordingly.

Asked whether passenger fares will also be considered for further hike, Mr. Chowdhury replied in the negative. “No it will be freight only,” he said.

“The FAC is proposed in the budget. It is a budget proposal that tariff will be examined taking the fuel cost in mind after every six months,” Minister said.

However, he said, “It will be in a dynamic way. If the global oil price will decrease then freight tariff will also decrease,” and added “the rupee value…current scenario is volatile. It is a concern for all of us.”

Railways is in the process of setting up Rail Tariff Authority (RTA) for which it got cabinet approval this month.

Once the RTA is constituted, it will suggest the level of tariff for both the freight and passenger fares from time to time taking into account the input cost and volatile market conditions.

While delivering his address at the conference on “Modernisation of Indian Railways — Challenges and opportunities,” Mr. Chowdhury said India should emulate China’s progress in the field and batted for “friendship” between the two countries.

“It is my wish to travel from Delhi to Beijing in a train because China is our neighbouring country.

“When we are talking of a barrier-free world, let us dream first. All problems will be solved if friendship between elephant and dragon is established,” he said.

Railways’ earnings hit by unrealistic targets

Indian Railways (IR) failed to hit the targeted revenue earning in July. One major reason for this had been the poor show by the zonal railways on passenger earning front.

None of the 16 zonal railways could achieve the passenger traffic revenue targeted for the month, the shortfall from the target being more than 20 per cent.

Further inquiries revealed that the picture is not very different for first four months of the current fiscal, that is from April to July.

During the period, IR’s total earning amounted Rs 44,221.96 crore against the targeted Rs 45,463.03 crore. In terms of percentage, the drop might not appear as significant, around 2.73 per cent, but in terms of actual amount, it was Rs 1,241.07 crore — not too small a figure. This, it is feared, might impact some of the railway projects as the investment decisions are often taken on the basis of projected earnings.

Again, none of the 16 zonal railways could achieve the passenger earning target set for the four-month period, when the actual total earning from passenger traffic was Rs 11,596.77 crore as compared to the target of Rs 13,684.18 crore, which is a drop of 15.25 per cent.

The shortfall, thus, was more than Rs 2,000 crore. In other words, the shortfall from the passenger earning target was made up by earnings on other heads, particularly freight earning.

Freight earnings rise

In fact, the earnings from goods (freight) during first four months of the current fiscal amounted to Rs 30,492.06 crore, registering an increase of Rs 676.67 crore or a 2.27 per cent growth over Rs 29,815.39 crore targeted for the period.

Similarly, IR’s other coaching earnings (earnings from parcels and luggage carried on passenger trains), too, posted 18.07 per cent growth at Rs 1,307.83 crore (from Rs 1107.63 crore) or an increase of Rs 200.20 crore. But sundry earnings during the period posted a shortfall of 3.57 per cent (Rs 30.53 crore) at Rs 825.30 crore against the target of Rs 855.83 crore.

This has raised eyebrows in various quarters.

At a time when it is almost impossible to get instant reservation in any long-distance train across the country at any time of the year, IR’s failure to achieve the targeted passenger earnings surprises many.

One explanation being given is the impact of current economic slowdown. In other words, during the period fewer people travelled by train than targeted because of the economic downturn. However, the argument does not appear convincing. There has been no drop in the long list of waitlisted passengers for long-distance trains.

More importantly, the growth in freight earnings, no matter however small, only confirms that the impact of economic slowdown may not be as serious as it is made out to be. Nine out of the 16 zonal railways exceeded their respective freight earning targets set for the period.

Northern Railway exceeded the target by Rs 440.71 crore, followed by East Coast Railway (exceeded by Rs 387.79 crore), South Eastern Railway (Rs 175.49 crore), East Central Railway (Rs 153.98 crore), Southern Railway (Rs 101.09 crore), North Central Railway (Rs 75.94 crore), Western Railway (Rs 42.65 crore), North Eastern Railway (Rs 12.34 crore) and West Central Railway (Rs 9.66 crore).

Ambitious targets

The real reasons may be different. Railway sources say it could be the setting of targets for passenger earnings at unrealistically high levels which are difficult to achieve but good enough to satisfy the politicians and others who, the mandarins in the Rail Board felt, must be kept happy with ambitious figures. They say the targets are fixed unilaterally by the Board without any prior discussion with the zonal railways.

This year many of these railways did draw the attention of the Board as early as in March, soon after the Rail Budget was announced and the targets were fixed. The zonal railways, it is pointed out, might not have achieved the targets but, in most cases, exceeded the performance in the corresponding period of last year.

Second, which is important, is the prevalence of suburban traffic and poor earnings from it. The number of passengers using suburban services, particularly in metros, is many times more than those travelling in long-distance trains and yet the suburban services leave a big hole in railway coffers. The services are heavily subsidised and used by daily commuters many of whom, it is feared, travel without tickets. There have been attempts to make these passengers pay through the introduction of several attractive schemes but not with much success. There may be various other sources of leakages. For example, the jurisdiction of suburban service often extends much beyond the suburban area.

Railways plans PPP for route electrification

The cash-strapped Indian Railways is planning annuity-based public-private partnership (PPP) for its route-electrification projects. Under this model, Railways will pay the contractors in annual instalments. In the 12th Plan, the railways has set a target of electrification of 6,500-km route and it hopes to exceed the target with the annuity-based PPP route.

“Route electrification could be the most successful railways PPP project as we’ll save a lot on fuel bill. At present, running on diesel is three times costlier than electric route. So, whatever we save on the fuel can be paid to contractors annually,” Railway Board member electrical Kul Bhushan told FE.

Railways feels such projects have good traction and returns on investments are faster which will interest foreign technology giants. Railways is expecting companies such as Alstom, Siemens and KEC among others to invest in the PPP.

“Best thing about this model is that suppose we save R80 crore on fuel every after electrification of 400 km, we’ll pay that amount to the contractor every year for six years. This way we’ll get our route electrified without spending anything on it and the contractor will also get good return,” Kul Bhushan added.

In the current five-year plan, Railways has a PPP target of around R1 lakh crore. Although its PPP record has not been very encouraging as other than port connectivity projects, no other big-ticket railway projects on PPP have taken off. The cost of electrification comes out to be around R1 crore for every km. At present, Indian Railways has electrified network of just 24,000 km of the total 64,000 km. Railways has a fleet of around 4,500-diesel locomotives and the same number of electric locos. Railway has an overall fuel bill of Rs 21,000 crore.

Maintenance woes may force Rlys to change Duronto colour scheme

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and the Trinamool Congress may be intent on changing most of the state’s red into green but one of Mamata’s own “green contribution” to the Indian Railways, rolled out during her stint as the Union Railway Minister, is all set to be junked.
Faced with a deluge of maintenance-related complaints, the Ministry of Railways is “actively considering” a change in the colour scheme of its point-to-point, non-stop Duronto trains, launched by Mamata in September 2009. In fact, at the time of the first Duronto’s launch, it was adequately hinted (though never officially admitted) that the primarily green-coloured look of the train, interspersed with a dash of red, blue and yellow, was a design borrowed from one of Mamata’s own paintings.

However, with so many colours in the design, Railways realised quite early that it would have been impossible to bring out the desired colour-scheme on these coaches via the painting method. They were left with no option but to go in for the self-adhesive vinyl-wrapping of the Duronto coaches. At first, the vinyl-wraps appeared to be less cumbersome to handle but three-and-a-half years down the line, most of the zonal railways that own and maintain Duronto coaches are a harried lot.

At a recent conference of the Chief Mechanical Engineers (CME) of all the zonal railways held at Rail Bhavan, the matter was raised with a demand to review the colour scheme.

“Railways complained that in Duronto trains vinyl wraps are very difficult to maintain. Railways may approach Railway Board in consultation with the General Managers for review of colour scheme and painting procedure,” reads the minutes of the CME conference (copy with The Indian Express) where the matter was flagged.

“Many zonal railways have complained that the vinyl-wrapping comes off during the washing or maintenance work of the coaches. Once a portion of the vinyl-wrap peels off, it leaves ugly looking patches on coaches. On coaches that have a conventional colour scheme, it is possible to touch-up an area from where the paint comes off. But in case of Durontos, touching up is not just possible owing to their multi-colour design,” a senior ministry official from the Mechanical Engineering Directorate said.

“Several zonal railways have tried to rope in expert hands to do patchwork on Duronto coaches from which the vinyl-wraps had come off. However, not many people are available for this kind of a job and even if they manage to do some patchwork, the end-result has often turned out to be an eyesore,” the official added.

Senior Rail Bhavan officials said that changing the colour scheme seems to be the only possible remedy and was being deliberated at the top level. Many zonal railways, it is learnt, have communicated to the Railway Ministry that the vinyl-wrapping was not just costing them 10-20 per cent more than painting them but was also not proving to be long-lasting.

Presently, Durontos run on 62 routes across the country at frequencies ranging from once a week to five times a week.

Railways becoming popular option in Jaipur-Delhi segment.

In a scenario where buses and other vehicles take six to seven hours to reach the national capital from here due to the dilapidated roads and repair work on the Jaipur-Delhi national highway, railways and airways have become the most popular option for travelers. For middle and upper-class passengers, trains like Jaipur-Delhi double decker and Ajmer-Delhi Shatabadi express via Jaipur have emerged as viable and comfortable option.

The poor condition of the Jaipur-Delhi highway has also put a dent on the revenue of the Volvo and other buses run by the Rajasthan state roadways transport corporation (RSRTC).

“Passengers are opting for only for the night service Volvo buses which are only service running packed. In rest of the buses, we are getting passengers for places like Kothputli, Behror and Gurgaon as the number of passengers who opt for Delhi has gone down,” a senior officer at the Central bus stand said on Monday.

In order to retain tourists especially those who start their journey from Jaipur to the golden triangle connecting Jaipur-Agra and Delhi, the tour operators are providing them the option of trains and airways.

“During their advance reservations, we clearly tell them that the road journey between Jaipur and Delhi is pathetic and train is always a good option for them to travel between Jaipur and Delhi,” said Sanjay Kaushik, a tour operator,.

The Jaipur-Delhi double decker train which was launched last year from Delhi has already became a hit among the passengers.

“Our double decker train is running packed since it was introduced. Many a times we have to introduce extra coaches to meet the rush,” said Tarun Jain, chief public relations officer, North Western Railways (NWR).

According to the railway sources, at least 12 trains are running between Jaipur and Delhi everyday and all of them show no room vacant and tickets are sold in advance reservations.

Even, the airlines providing flights between the two places witness jam packed situation everyday.

Medical centres to come up at five railway stations

The Southern Railway (SR) has planned to set up medical centres at five railway stations in Madurai Railway Division to provide first aid to passengers.

The centres will come up at Madurai, Tirunelveli, Virudhunagar, Thoothukudi and Tenkasi railway stations, according to Chief Medical Director (SR) S.Ram Prakash.

After inaugurating the new outpatients block of the Railway Hospital here on Monday, he said the railway would provide the required space at the railway stations free of cost to private hospitals.

The respective hospital had to depute a medical officer and two paramedical staff to attend the passengers requiring medical care round the clock. “The hospitals will not charge the passengers for the services,” Mr.Prakash noted.

The hospitals would have to park an ambulance on the railway premises to rush the passengers to the hospital of their choice if they needed further medical care. Such medical centres had been opened at Chennai Central railway station and Salem railway station, he pointed out. The Chief Medical Director said the new outpatient block had been planned on an outlay of Rs.2.5 crore. While the ground floor of the building was ready, work was yet to be completed on the first floor. The new outpatient block would take the crowd off the main building of the hospital.

Published in: on August 28, 2013 at 3:27 am  Leave a Comment