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.


What India can learn from China’s amazing railway system

In 1949, the Chinese Railway network added less than 22,000 km of poorly maintained, war-damaged lines. By 2008, its network touched 80,000 route km — 36 per cent double-tracked and 35 per cent electrified.

During 1950-1980, China added 107 railway lines, stretching over 30,000 km, and has plans to extend the network to 20,000 route km by 2020 — 50 per cent of it double-tracked and 60 per cent electrified.
With an audacious investment programme, Chinese Railway, like the country’s most dramatic burst of wealth creation, inspires awe as much as envy.

The Chinese railways trailed Indian Railways technologically until the 1980s. In fact, even in 1990, its 24,800-km core network with an annual density of 30 million gross tonnes or more had largely 50 kg/m and 43 kg/m rails; as many as 55 per cent of the wagons were with plain bearings.

Until 1980, steam locomotive continued to remain its mainstay, carrying 76 per cent of its traffic. Today, Indian Railway, lost in shibboleths of systematic self-destruction, lags way behind Chinese Railway, and has no tangible strategy for growth.

On the other hand, Chinese Railway, now the world’s second largest freight railway system and the largest passenger system, has by far the highest traffic density (passenger-km and tonne-km per km of line) — it is 10.5 times the world average. Its output per locomotive, per freight car, per passenger coach is among the highest.

Chinese Railway’s priority development plans have centred on high technology and a judicious mix of traffic routes for passenger trains running at 200 kmph and freight trains at 120 kmph.

Travel time has been reduced by increasing service speeds and reducing train stops. Between 1997 and 2007, Chinese Railway carried out six stages of ‘speed raising’: maximum train speed that was generally around 80-100 kmph in 1991 has gradually been raised to 160-200 kmph on popular passenger corridors.

The first 300-kmph electric multiple unit (EMU) train set was inaugurated in August 2008 between Beijing and Tianjin. CR is currently constructing 350 kmph passenger dedicated lines (PDLs). The combined length of PDLs by 2020 will be 16,000 route km; another 35 mixed traffic lines will be equipped to operate at 200-350 kmph.

Chinese Railway is busy developing its capacity and quality for freight and passenger traffic in line with the economy’s astounding growth.

It already operates 2,700 m long, 20,000-tonne heavy- haul coal trains. Its containerised freight is forecast to reach 400 million tonnes by 2020 compared with just 64.5 million tonnes in 2006.
As Chinese Railway is poised to have the largest high-speed rail network worldwide, it will have a similar seminal infrastructure for heavy-haul freight transportation.

The principles underpinning the Mid-to-Long Range Railway Network Plan (MLRNP), 2003, approved for CR by the State Council, include: Coordination of rail development with that of other transport modes; separation of passenger and freight transport on constrained busy trunk lines to increase capacity and improve service; development of inter-city fast passenger networks; expansion of the rail network to support and encourage sustainable economic development, regional development and national defence; raising the local content of railway equipment and promotion of local railway manufacturing.

In 1991, the Chinese government enacted a Railway Law, which gave the ministry of railways overall control of policy, technical standards, planning, investment and finance, leaving just the day-to-day management and delivery of rail transport services and infrastructure to the regional railway administrations (RRAs).

For raising capital for new constructions, a surcharge was applied to all freight traffic in 1990. A second surcharge was introduced in 1993 for freight moving on electrified lines and was used for extending electrification over the network.

In 2005, China opted for public-private partnerships for new constructions, including the PDLs. Local railways in China came into being in 1960 essentially as feeder lines financed by respective local governments. Joint venture railways, established first in the 1990s, account for more than 50 per cent of the new constructions.

Chinese Railway’s track structure is being constantly upgraded: PDLs will all have ballastless track and the heavy-haul high-density Daqin line, originally laid with jointed 60 kg/m rail in 25m lengths on the east-bound loaded track, is being replaced by continuously welded 75 kg/m rail on 2,600-2,700 mm long sleepers laid at 1,840 per km.

Four large equipment maintenance bases are due to be completed by 2013, one each at Beijing, Shanghai, Wuhan and Guangzhou. These will be aided by 35 modern satellite depots across the network. Concomitantly, several state-of-the-art signalling and communication systems have been planned.

China has emerged as a strong manufacturer of railway equipment as much as a burgeoning market for it. By 2020, China will potentially be the global leader in rail technology.

Technology transfer from Japanese and European companies has enabled China’s railway supply industry to acquire the knowhow to build rolling stock ranging from 350 kmph EMUs to heavy-haul locomotives. Matching advancements have been made in track and signalling technologies.

On dedicated heavy haul corridors, such as Daqin line, wagons of aluminium or stainless steel body with 25 tonne axle load, fitted with rotary couplers, and for up to 120 kmph operation, are being introduced progressively.

The whole approach has been pragmatic coupled with bold initiatives, clarity, and continuity. Major rationalisation measures initiated by Chinese Railway have entailed massive investments as well as drastic disinvestments.

Many railway stations with low volume of freight have been closed; short distance passenger traffic has been actively discouraged to release capacity for longer distance rail travel.

Following a ‘productivity layout adjustment’, locomotive depots, passenger car depots, vehicle depots and passenger transportation sections and train crew districts were all reduced.

In an important reform in 2005, a whole tier in the Chinese Railway management structure, the sub-administration level of regional administration (akin to divisions on IR) was abolished, leaving RRAs with a direct line of management to depots, stations and yards.

By 2005, Chinese Railway transferred some 900 schools and colleges and 400 hospitals to local governments. Surplus staff not directly involved in railway operations were put on the RRA rolls in what are called diversified economy companies set up in 1985.

Raghu Dayal


Railways experiment with cost-effective fly ash sleepers

The Research, Design and Standards Organisation (RDSO) of Indian Railways is experimenting with cost-effective sleepers for railway tracks. At present, railway sleepers are made with cement concrete. Now, the RDSO, in collaboration with IIT-Kanpur and NTPC, is planning to use fly ash in the sleepers, which will not only make them more durable, but also cost effective. An initiative of NTPC, the project was undertaken by RDSO in January 2010, and the sleepers will undergo lab tests in the next three months before going for field trials.

Fly ash is a residue of coal-based thermal power plants and is generally considered a waste. However, it is known to acquire cement-like properties when mixed with lime and water because of its pozzolanic characteristics, said V K Mathur, Head of Ash Utilisation Division, NTPC.

India produces 150 million ton fly ash every year and by 2012, the production is expected to reach 200 million tons. Mixing 25 to 30 per cent of fly ash gives 20 per cent more durability to the cement structure as the fly ash particles, being smaller in size than the cement particles, settle in the smallest of voids in a cement structure and make the structure more condense, Mathur told The Indian Express.

He was in town to participate in the two-day UIC Asia Workshop on Optimisation of Pre-stressed Concrete Sleepers organised by the International Union of Railways in collaboration with RDSO. This is the first time that railways organised an international workshop in Lucknow and more than 80 delegates from across the country, as well as from Germany and Australia, participated in it.

“We produce around one crore sleepers every year and if the experiment is successful, it will reduce the cost of production of each sleeper by approximately Rs 30, which will mean an overall cost saving of Rs 30 to 35 crore per annum for India Railways,” said A K Singhal, Executive Director (Track), RDSO.

“In the long run, this will also gain carbon credits for RDSO as it will reduce 0.15 million tons emission of carbon dioxide per annum,” Mathur said. Fly ash is also expected to reduce lime requirements in the process by 0.15 million tons, he added.

“The lab tests on sleepers made of 30 per cent fly ash is being done in IIT-Kanpur and if all goes well, we will be ready for its field trial in the next three months. The first trials on main track will be done in the vicinity of RDSO, Lucknow,” said Singhal.