CST gets solar panels to meet its energy needs

THE Central Railway (CR) has undertaken a pilot project to reduce its carbon footprint at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) in Mumbai division and Tikekarwadi in Solapur division. For this, it is looking at solar energy to fulfil the power needs at these stations.

In December last year, Khandala station was provided with equipment to harness solar and wind energy. “Tikekarwadi has now become the first station on CR to meet all its power requirement through solar energy. At CST, the 10-kW solar panel is meeting some of the requirement, said Vidyadhar Malegaonkar, chief public relations officer, CR.

Rising energy costs had compelled CR to take steps to reduce dependence on non-renewable energy. According to the spokesperson, the average cost of one unit has gone up by around 16 per cent due to increase in energy prices between 2011-12 and 2012-13. Last year, CR earned a Rs 5.77 crore rebate on non-traction energy owing to the green initiatives undertaken by the administration.

“With measures such as these, we hope to reduce our dependence on non-renewable sources of energy further,” said Malegaonkar.

“In addition, about 50 level-crossing gates are powered by solar energy. We have also taken measures like running pythons (two freight trains attached together) and switching off auxiliary systems when trains are at stations. Such measures have helped us improve specific energy consumption by 2.7 per cent,” he said.


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.


Walk on railway tracks, land in jail

Try walking on the railway tracks and you may stand a chance of being arrested and put behind the bars.

After witnessing 14 deaths on the tracks within a span of 48 hours (Saturday and Sunday), Eastern Railway (ER) has planned to clamp down on people crossing the tracks or walking along them. Under railway rules, such people are trespassers and may face a term of six months in jail and have to pay a fine of Rs 1,000.

Among those killed, 12 were in the Sealdah division and the remaining two in the Howrah division. Many of them were walking along the tracks while using their mobile phones, officials said.

“While eight people were killed on Saturday, six died on Sunday. Such deaths are unnecessary and hamper punctuality. After the matter gets reported, we can’t run trains on the affected track till the Government Railway Police (GRP) removes the body. The saddest part is that most incidents are reported close to stations where foot overbridges and underpasses exist. We have also launched an awareness campaign to stop people from using their mobile phones while crossing the tracks (even at level crossings), but there hasn’t been too much of an improvement. Now, we will have to be stricter,” said an official.

ER has launched another campaign where people will be warned of the consequences of walking along tracks. Even if they survive the trains, railway staff may haul them up and get them arrested. “If caught near foot overbridges or underpasses, the offenders will get no reprieve,” he added.

Suchitto Kumar Das, divisional railway manager, Sealdah, said, “This has become a major issue. When I took over recently, I was shocked to learn that five to six people are run over and killed on the tracks under the Sealdah Division everyday. Most of the accidents occur due to carelessness. People are so involved with their mobile phones that they can’t even hear the train horns. There is a tendency to not use the overbridges and underpasses and most cases occur near stations. A few cases do happen on the Park Circus – Ballygunge and Madhyamgram – Barasat – Birati sections where there are encroachments along the tracks. While some cases are unavoidable, we would like to prevent those that happen due to carelessness.”

Records available with the railways reveals that the ages of those who die in this manner range from teenage to the 70s. The large number of level crossing gates on the Sealdah Division may also be a reason why people prefer to cross the tracks. For the 700-odd km tracks on this division, there are 528 level crossing gates.