When can we travel like humans?

The year 2013 was a watershed for the suburban railways. This year, both Central and Western railways hit new passenger marks. CR became the first suburban system in the country to cross the 40-lakh passenger-per-day mark to touch 40.3 lakhs. WR hit the 35-lakh passenger-per-day mark. Its current daily figure stands at 35.55 lakhs.

On days like Raksha Bandhan or Diwali, train commuters get a taste of the madness that awaits them in 2020. On Raksha Bandhan (Tuesday) , CR believes it carried a whopping 53 lakh passengers, 30% higher than the daily average. WR also carried close to 40 lakh passengers that day.

With people flocking into the city unabated and parallel modes of transport like metro and monorail expected to decongest certain sections, railway planners say, by 2020, these figures might become the norm rather than the exception.

A study conducted last year by the railways peggedthe cost of adding 517 km rail lines and 266 rakes at Rs52,167 crore. Of this, Rs 20,000 crore are set to be spent between 2011 and 2012 for 202 km of tracks and 107 trains. Even this may not be enough to end the problem. The railways and the state could not agree on how to finance projects last year.

At the centre of the debate is item 3.3 (g) of the Indian Railway Vision 2020 document. It clearly states that ‘partnership with state authorities will be necessary for the development of suburban rail systems’.

The word partnership is the problem. “For railways, it means finances; for the state government, it means ‘giving all support to building a rail line, what we officially call the State Support Agreement’,” said a senior railway official. The Mumbai Rail Vikas Corporation (MRVC) wants civic bodies along the route to levy taxes and collect funds. The state wants the railways to do that.

The idea that Mumbai thrives on commercial development of land has been something that has just not taken off with the railways. Despite grand plans to convert railway land — 430 million sq metres nationwide — into money-spinning commercial complexes, not an inch of land in the city has actually been monetised. Prime among them is a 45,000 sq m plot near the Bandra station.
The railways and the state are fighting over its ownership.

MRVC, the agency co-ordinating the city’s rail modernisation efforts, has also charted out an elaborate land development plan by starting something called the ‘best use option’ survey. The survey wants to ascertain the commerical value of railway land and the impact its development would have on adjoining civil infrastructure.

The first of the five plots the MRVC is surveying are Mulund (W), Bhandup (E), Thane, Chinchpokli and Currey Road.

“It’s a catch-22 situation. The railways wants to develop land to finance projects.
The problem is these land parcels are at stations which are in the midst of some of the biggest urban nightmares. For example, how does one develop the plot at Mulund (W) when roads there are so congested. Wouldn’t such development choke the station?” said a senior MRVC official.

According to Dr PC Sehgal, former MD of MRVC, the most cost-effective solution might be the 15-coach train. “If the fast corridor on both CR and WR is converted from 12-coach to 15-coach, we are looking at a 33% capacity increase. The infrastructure to run 15-coach trains is already there on both WR and CR and the new rakes coming in are configured to have a maximum of 18 coaches. In 1986, we started the first 12-coach train. It was only a couple of years ago, all nine-coach trains were converted into 12-coach on mainline and WR. This time, it shouldn’t take such a long time,” said Sehgal.


Published in: on September 24, 2013 at 5:22 pm  Leave a Comment  

Now, file a police complaint during train journey

Victims of crime on trains will no longer have to wait till they reach their destination to file a police complaint. They can do it from the comfort of their seats.

Under the Crime and Criminal Tracking Networking (CCTN) system, introduced by the Government Railway Police (GRP) across 30 railway police stations on an experimental basis, passengers can log on to on their laptops or smartphones and file complaints about a stolen piece of baggage or other offences. GRP personnel will be able to track down criminals and crack cases quickly as police stations have been linked by a digital network and crime records for 10 years digitized. The system allows superior officers to effectively monitor police stations each of which has been given 3-4 computers worth Rs 3 lakh.

The new system was inaugurated at the GRP station at Chennai Central on Monday.

All FIRs and cases filed at railway police stations, to be stored in a data centre, can be retrieved by officers to track down history of cases and crimes committed by culprits. “We will be able to solve a case quickly because crime records dating to 10 years have been digitized and uploaded. This will also help us crack down on gangs operating in different states,” said ADGP (Railways) R Sekar.

On many occasions, gangs have taken advantage of interstate jurisdictional barriers to evade arrest for very long because tracking cases across different states is time-consuming. Recently, the railway police nabbed three men who used to fly to the city from Delhi and rob train passengers on south-bound trains from Chennai. Tracking down such gangs will now be easier, said a police officer.

“Passengers’ online complaints will be registered immediately,” said GRP DSP V Ponramu.

Sekar said the “CCTN system will reduce the time required to collate information gathered by police in different police districts, forensic experts and others. It will reduce the number of manual records or registers maintained at police stations.” Automation will eliminate duplication of records and inconsistent record keeping and police will be able to access crime and criminal records easily, he said.

GRP personnel will be able to track down criminals and crack cases quickly as police stations have been linked by a digital network and crime records for 10 years digitized.


Published in: on September 24, 2013 at 5:21 pm  Leave a Comment  

At last, toilets in train engines

That its train engine drivers, or loco-pilots as it calls them now, work under extremely stressful conditions has been Indian Railways’ worst kept secret.

Relief junction: Train engines now to have toilet facility for first time

In fact, the stress levels of loco-pilots have often been blamed for many rail accidents in recent years. And now, a panel looking into the matter has zeroed in on a very basic facility, the lack of which has added substantially to stress levels of these men: toilets inside locomotives.

The committee “to review the duty hours of running and other safety related categories of staff” has recommended “a suitable waterless type urinal” on “every locomotive as an immediate measure” to take care of the problem.

“Difficulties are being experienced by the loco running staff at present due to non-availability of toilets in the locomotives. The problem is much more on super fast trains which run for 4 to 5 hours continuously at a stretch without any stoppage,” the committee, headed by former food processing secretary D P Tripathi, has said.

The report, which was submitted to the railways ministry, has stressed the need for toilets in locos saying this “problem is likely to get further aggravated in future with more and more induction of ladies in loco running cadre”.

Even on faster long-distance trains such as the Rajdhanis and Shatabdis, loco-pilots have had to contend with travelling long distances without a toilet break until now. The only time they could use a toilet has been during halts at intermediary stations, having had little option but to “hold on”.

In point-to-point non-stop Duronto trains, the only “window” the loco-pilots have for a toilet break is during the train’s technical halts.

Privately, officials admit that there have been instances when

a loco-pilot had to stop the train in the middle of a section to relieve himself.

“A few months back, we came up with a prototype of a retro-fitted toilet in a diesel locomotives. All we are now awaiting is a policy decision from the Railway Board on the matter. The recommendations of this committee will only help us get a stronger mandate to do the same,” a senior railway official said.

In 2010, a team of railway doctors had carried out a detailed study on the working of loco-pilots to identify their stress levels and the factors responsible for stress build-up. As many as 100 loco-pilots were part of this study and while most of the findings-from postural discomfort and non-spacious and noisy workplace to long duty hours with improper rest-were on expected lines, “the absence of toilets” in locomotives came as a revelation.

In addition to toilets, the report has recommended an overall makeover of the locomotives-ranging from air-conditioning the cabin to providing cameras along with a display unit that can ensure that loco-pilots don’t have to peep out of the window and look back frequently for viewing the train formation and the guard’s signal.

Air-conditioning has been proposed as the committee found temperatures inside loco cabins during summers were “quite unbearable”— as high as 61 degrees celsius in diesel locos and 51.8 degrees celsius in electric locos.


TDR issued on ticket cancellation, Indian railways bound to refund fare

Ticket deposit receipt (TDR) is issued after cancellation of a ticket, Railways is bound to refund the fare within reasonable time and failing to do so is a clear case of deficiency, a consumer forum here has said.

The New Delhi District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum made the observation while directing the Railways to pay Rs 16,300, including refund, to a complainant for not returning the fare for the tickets he booked in 2010 despite issuing a TDR and assuring him that payment would be made within 90 days.

“As per guidelines, waitlisted tickets on being cancelled due to not availing of journey and TDR is issued to the complainant, railways is bound to return the fare in reasonable time failing which it is clear case of deficiency adopted by railway officials.

“The complainant is waiting for refund for last three years. This is serious imperfection in services. Keeping this in view, opposite party (railways) has to refund Rs 1,300 (the fare). We also award Rs 15,000 as compensation for deficiency and litigation expenses,” a bench presided by C K Chaturvedi said.

The order came on the complaint of Delhi resident Pradeep Saraswat, who had said that he had cancelled his and his wife’s waitlisted tickets back in 2010 and was issued a TDR regarding the same with an assurance that refund would be made within 90 days.

However, no payment was made by the railways, he had alleged.

Railways in their defence had contended that the TDR issued to him was wrong and that TDR does not guarantee refund.


Published in: on September 24, 2013 at 5:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

Railways offers PPP-mode revival of defunct stations

With the Municipal Corporation offering to renovate the defunct Thudiyalur railway station at a cost of Rs 39.85 lakh, residents of colonies along the Coimbatore — Mettupalayam road section want the remaining three stations also to be revived.

After repeated representations, the Southern Railway was now operating three special services in addition to a regular service. There were eight services from Coimbatore to Mettupalayam and from Mettupalayam to Coimbatore and the train has received overwhelming patronage. Mettupalayam People’s Welfare Federation convener T.T. Arangasamy has appealed to Southern Railway to increase the frequency with two more services in either direction and also to operate the services on Sundays. The train service now has only two stoppages at Perianaickenpalayam and Karamadai and the residents’ demand was to revive Veerapandi, Pudupalayam, Thudiyalur and Urumandampalayam railway stations. The Coimbatore — Mettupalayam section has a number of residential colonies, industries and educational institutions accounting for a steep increase in passenger traffic. A stop for these four pairs of trains would serve more passengers, Mr. Arangasamy said.

Meanwhile, the Southern Railway has offered to revive the defunct stations, provided the stations were renovated under the Public — Private Partnership (PPP) mode also known as Shramdhan scheme. As far as Thudiyalur railway station was concerned, the erstwhile Thudiyalur Town Panchayat (presently an added area of Coimbatore Corporation) had passed a resolution to this effect.

Now, the Coimbatore Corporation has also passed a resolution on September 19 to renovate the Thudiyalur station i.e., the station master’s room, platforms and toilet facilities at a cost of Rs 39.85 lakh. The Vellakinar Town Panchayat, vide its communication dated August 16, had communicated its willingness to renovate the Urumandampalayam railway station and provide basic amenities. With regard to Pudupalayam and Veerapandi railway stations, the Railway Struggle Committee and respective local residents’ associations were in talks with philanthropists and corporate houses to seek their contribution for station renovation works.

Mr. Arangasamy also appealed for increasing the platform length at Mettupalayam and Karamadai besides extending the Coimbatore — Mangalore Passenger Train No 56323 and 56324 up to Mettupalayam. With regard to electrification of the section, Railway sources said the scheme was sanctioned in 2012 — 2013 at a cost of Rs 26.08 crore and the tenders had been opened. Railway Electrification, Allahabad, will commence works shortly.


Automatic doors in AC coaches

Indian Railways are planning to install automatic doors in AC coaches of some of the premier trains, on the lines of those in Metro, to enhance passenger safety measures and check criminal activities on trains.

The new system will be controlled by the driver or guard from his cabin. He will be able to open the doors automatically when train arrives at station, and close when it departs.

Currently, train doors are opened and closed manually. “Under the automatic system, if all the doors are not closed, a train will not move,” said an official.

A meeting of the railway board was held last week to finalise the proposal for introducing automatic doors system in trains.

“Research Design and Standards Organisation is finalising the specifications for the system. It will be fitted in a rake of 20 AC coaches in the Rail Coach Factory at Kapurthala as a pilot project,” the official said.

“A non-AC coach in Delhi division will be made functional with the automatic closing door system for trial purpose.”

Many people have lost their lives falling off running trains while standing on foot-board. According to the official, Allahabad High Court had directed the Railways to instal automatic doors in passenger coaches to prevent passengers from falling off running trains. Railways had appealed to the Supreme Court against the order, but the apex court had upheld the High Court decision.


Published in: on September 24, 2013 at 4:54 pm  Comments (1)  
Tags: ,

Govt may soon permit FDI in Indian Railways

The government is likely to allow FDI in the cash-starved railways sector, particularly for development of rail lines between project sites and existing network, a top government official said.

At present, there is a complete ban on any kind of foreign direct investment (FDI) in the railways sector. To allow FDI in the sector, the government needs to remove it from the list of prohibited sectors under the current policy.

As per the proposal of the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), foreign companies would be allowed to pick up 100 percent stake in the special purpose vehicle (SPV) that will construct and maintain rail lines connecting ports, mines and industrial hubs with the existing rail network.

“It will be first-to-last mile connectivity between ports and things like coal mines to the existing railway freight stations,” a top government official said.

First-to-last mile connectivity would mean smooth movement of raw materials from mines to ports.

The DIPP, which deals with FDI-related matters, has completed consultations with the concerned ministries on the proposal.

“The DIPP will soon seek Cabinet nod for the proposal. They have proposed to permit 100 percent FDI under automatic route in such projects,” the official said.

“The move will help in attracting more and more FDI besides helping in the development of infrastructure for industrial purposes. Indian Railways are facing a cash problem,” the official added.

Industrial development and exports have been suffering on account of poor infrastructure which hampers output and raises the cost of production. Railways can play a role in providing a reliable transport facility necessary for promoting industrial growth.

Players setting up sea ports and large mines need efficient railway connectivity. The Railway Ministry’s effort towards attracting funds through public?private partnership for infrastructure projects have failed to gather steam.

Minister of State for Railways Kotla Jaya Surya Prakash Reddy said in a written response to the Rajya Sabha has said that loss incurred by the Railways in the passenger segment is likely to touch Rs 25,000 crore this year.


Indian Railways plans LNG-run locos for long distances

The Indian Railways is set to go green by rolling out engines fuelled by environment friendly and cost-effective liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Though in the preliminary stage, the railways — which currently uses coal, diesel and electricity as fuels — gradually plans to switch over to the globally recognised natural gas powered locomotives.

The Research Design and Standards Organisation (RDSO) -the Lucknow research wing of the Railways — is working on development of a prototype of an LNG-powered locomotive, as part of its efforts to adopt environment-friendly and costeffective alternative fuels.

“Once the prototype is proven on the field, the Railways plans to build another 20 LNG-based locomotives on the same concept,” said AK Mathur, spokesperson, RDSO.

It would take another 2-3 years for putting the locomotives for commercial usage, after passing all the safety tests, he added.

With the introduction of this technology, the Railways expects a 50% reduction in operating costs of locomotives. In addition, there would be an elimination of smoke from the locomotives and significant reductions in other regulated and unregulated emissions.

“Once the Railways switches over completely to natural gas as fuel for its diesel locomotives, it would amount to only 2.2 % of India’s annual natural gas consumption of 81 million tonnes and therefore commercially feasible,” said a railway official.

At present, Indian Railways uses coal, diesel and electricity as fuels for running its fleet of locomotives. Prices of both these fuels have been rising rapidly due to increasing prices of crude oil and imported coal, devaluation of the rupee and such factors that, apart from environment concerns, has prompted the public carrier to think of an alternate fuel.

Already, a short distance diesel electrical multiple unit (DEMU) has been converted into a compressed natural gas (CNG) driven locomotive in Shakoor Basti in Delhi. The concept would be soon replicated in 40 other trains.

“CNG is used for short distances while LNG would be applicable for long distance trains as well,” added the official. LNG is a natural gas (predominantly methane) that has been converted to liquid form for ease of storage or transport.

It is pertinent to mention here that the Indian Railways is one of the first railway transport systems in the world to plan LNG-run locomotives for long distances.


Ennore port gets nod for north rail link

Ennore Port’s dream to have access to northern rail link is close to realisation after Indian Railways gave its in-principle approval for the Rs 170-crore project.

The 26-km-long rail link will be on a single track connecting the port with the Chennai-Gudur mainline. It will terminate close to Minjur, said Ennore Port chairman and managing director M A Bhaskarachar.

“We got the approval on Friday,” said Bhaskarachar during a function where Union Shipping Minister handed over benefits worth Rs 1.5 crore to those identified under corporate social responsibility.


Published in: on September 22, 2013 at 6:16 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

Nuclear energy to fuel Indian Railways in future?

Forget missiles and rockets, nuclear energy could soon be fuelling your local and long distance trains, if things go as planned. The Indian Railways (IR) is toying with the idea of using nuclear power to compliment their power system, and is in talks with the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) as well.

On September 13, the members from Railway Board, headed by Member Electrical Kul Bhushan, had a meeting with DAE officials. Sources in the railways said that they are keen on setting up a nuclear power plant in the future. “We want to look at the option of using nuclear power for our railway system and so discussed with DAE the construction of an exclusive nuclear plant in the future,” said a senior railway official.

The government is already facing vehement opposition from locals and anti-nuclear activists over land acquisition and the possible ill-effects of two major nuclear plants at Jaitapur in Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra and Kudankulam in Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu.

The DAE has the authority to set up nuclear plants for the railways to generate power for its trains. Railway officials added that the nuclear plant could be set up in any state of India. In Mumbai, the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) operates nuclear plants.

At present, railway lines across the country get their supply of electricity from a national grid where generated power is first pooled in and then distributed among different states. For nuclear energy to fuel trains, a separate grid has to be set up especially for the railways.

“Once the power is generated, it can be distributed through substations of Indian Railways which would then feed overhead cables that supplies electricity to trains,” explained a senior railway official, admitting that the cost of setting up these nuclear power plants and establishing an isolated, independent system would incur heavy costs.

SK Malhotra, head of the public awareness in DAE, said, “The railways has shown interest in a dedicated power plant. There have been meetings but no MoU has been signed yet. Sources claimed that they are presently checking the possibility of an in-principal agreement between the two and are identifying a suitable location for the plant.