Delhi’s biggest, busiest railway station works with clockwork precision

Inside the power cabin of New Delhi Railway Station hangs a dire warning: being careless may save you a little time but it can result in an accident. A large board dotted with tiny bulbs represents the station’s tracks and platforms. Red lights denote standing trains and yellows the expected arrivals. It is 1pm and all the bulbs are lit.

On any day, the city’s biggest railway station handles more than 300 trains and serves around 5 lakh people. It’s an exceedingly complex job that keeps nine departments and close to 9,000 staff on their toes. “Everything has a schedule and it has to be followed. It requires planning, anticipating what can go wrong, and making arrangements accordingly,” says BK Shukla, the chief station manager.

The power cabin handles three of the station’s most important functions—signalling, traffic and public address—and on this afternoon two men are coordinating the movement of trains over walkie-talkies. They have to update the wall map and ensure that the platforms are cleared for the coming trains on time. Although the station has 16 platforms, there are only four tracks leading in and out of it, and with a train every five minutes, on average, there’s a lot of coordination to be done. Especially in the rush hours, like on this hot afternoon.

Within the power cabin, a man sits in a small enclosure, making announcements on a microphone. Now he’s calling the attention of a woman whose husband is waiting at the entrance of platform 1. Another official sits at a computer that plays recorded announcements.

Besides the three important functions handled by the power cabin, the station has other departments—mechanical, electrical, engineering, commercial, telecommunication, security and medical—for smooth operation. However, the nerve centre is the cabin of the chief station manager. He coordinates with all the departments and takes care of any glitch that occurs.

Shukla has been in charge of New Delhi station for three years and he lays a lot of emphasis on planning and schedules. Only recently, he’s overseen the change in train schedules. A phone rings and Shukla picks it up. A train is running late. In the blink of an eye he tells the caller to announce that it will now arrive at 6.30pm. “I know the schedule of the train and can assess how much time it will take to arrive,” he says with a reassuring smile.

The information will soon be available on the 139 helpline and announced on the public address system. The PA system and train information boards are maintained by the telecommunication department. Shukla says each department has a task and as long as they do their bit, there are no problems.

The traffic department sees to it that trains run on time, while the signals department handles 309 signals on the station to guide trains and also maintains tracks. The mechanical, electrical and engineering departments are responsible for technical maintenance of trains and ensure they are safe and the passenger amenities are in order. The train drivers are supervised by the mechanical department, which also takes care of the loco shed where the engines are kept.

The crucial passenger interaction is handled by the commercial department. It manages booking of tickets, train charts, ticket checking, waiting rooms, retiring rooms, catering and enquiry. The department also handles parcels (or luggage). A luggage vanevery train has two—has a capacity of eight tonnes, but special trains like Rajdhanis have four-tonne vans.

Shukla has facts on his fingertips, and if he doesn’t he can get all the information he wants within 15-20 minutes. He trots out figures for electricity consumed, water used and even the cups of tea sold in a day (5,000).

Asked about the security arrangements at the station, he says there are 152 CCTV cameras and the footage from all of them can be viewed by him. The security is managed by Railway Protection Force (RPF) and Government Railway Police (GRP). The medical department, apart from keeping first aid boxes at platforms 1 and 16, also employs staff to clean the station area.

There is no opening or closing time for the station. The enquiry sections are among the most crowded parts. The officials claim that the line “never breaks”. It thins in the night and thickens by afternoon but there is no time when there aren’t people at the counter. “In rush hour, we answer queries of 500-odd people in an hour,” says an official before turning his attention back on the crowd.

Published in: on July 14, 2013 at 5:44 am  Leave a Comment  

From doorstep to train berth, Rlys works out a travel deal

The Railways is taking its services to the next level. In the works is an “end-to-end” travel solution for passengers, involving doorstep pick-up, porter facility, waiting provision in the executive lounge and assisted boarding, all for a fee and all rolled into one package deal.

The modalities of the project, to be rolled out in Delhi first, are being worked out. Conceived by the railway ministry, it will be executed by Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC).

“We are working on the logistics, and hope to start the service in six months,” Rakesh Tandon, IRCTC managing director, said.

The package deal is meant to minimise the hassles of a railway journey, from reaching the station and managing the luggage to haggling with porters and boarding the train. The amount charged will factor in the cab charges as well as the porter fees. Customer executives will escort passengers to their trains.

The package deal can be soon availed from the same website from where railway tickets are booked. Those travelling alone, especially senior citizens, are expected to benefit the most, apart from business travellers who are in the city for a day.

The idea is linked to railway executive lounges, the first of which was opened at the New Delhi railway station last month. Currently, for Rs 300, a passenger can use the lounge for three hours, and meals are included. Fifty more such lounges are planned.

What may be an impediment is the scale of the service — starting, for example, with the number of taxis that may be required to be a call away. The option of using chartered buses from certain points is being considered.

Separate departure, arrival at New Delhi station

The Railways has prepared a master plan to upgrade the New Delhi railway station to global standards. There will be separate departure and arrival areas and ticket counters will be taken out of the station building.

“Some of the projects and their budgets are subject to clearance by the higher authorities but we have started work wherever allowed,” a senior official said.

On the Ajmeri Gate side, there is a plan to build a new ticket-cum-waiting hall in an area of 20,000 sqm. A premium parking lot is planned over 20,000 sqm. Both projects are likely to cost Rs. 60 crore. The parking lot for 300 cars is ready. It’s likely to be put on trial from January 28. For departure, passengers will first go the first floor and from there they can go to their platforms. The ground floor will be used for arrival.

To facilitate this, ramps, elevators, escalators, and stairs will be put in place. Flap gates will ensure directions.Currently, of the 16 platforms, only three (16, 14, 15) on the Ajmeri Gate side and one on the Paharganj side have escalators for a daily volume of 500,000 passengers.

There is always chaos at the station because the arrival and departure areas are not separate and ticketing is in the main building.The Railways wants to take ticketing out of the main building and build a two-storey structure between bridges 1 and 2. This is likely to cost R8 crore. “We intend to renovate the existing ground and first floors and convert them into waiting halls in 6000 sqm area. This may cost us R6 crore,” he said.

The Railways is already creating a waiting area (2,500 sqm) on the ground floor on the Paharganj side. The work should be completed in a year. “Creation of another waiting area (4,000 sqm) on the first floor on the same side is desirable but that’s in concept stage. We estimate both projects will cost Rs. 13 crore,” he said.

Published in: on January 25, 2013 at 1:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

New Delhi Railway Station gets swanky new lounge

Waiting for your train at the New Delhi Railway Station is set to become a pleasant experience. For there is now an “executive” waiting lounge – on the lines of what we see at airports.

For Rs 300 a person, you can enter the facility for three hours and do many things, such as enjoy complementary buffet meals or snacks, tea, coffee and soft beverages, accessing wi-fi , or even take a short nap on recliners.

The facility has been made available by Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), a Railways subsidiary. Catering services are provided by SSP Catering India, which also provides catering to Emirates’ lounge at T3, IGI Airport, New Delhi.

The lounge has TV screens with train information display, apart from other screens that display other channels. If passengers want to stay beyond three hours, Rs 125 will be charged for an hour.

Spread over 300 sq m and two floors, the lounge has a seating capacity for 125 persons. There are services such as business centre, fax, desktop, printer; wash and change, which are chargeable. The facility also houses a retail convenience store of WH Smith, with a bookshop.

IRCTC will pay 25 per cent of the revenue earned from this facility to Indian Railways.

Since November 26, when the facility became available, though not marketed, an average of 60-odd people used the facility every day, with some 114 people using it on one day.

IRCTC plans such facilities in 50 stations, including Delhi, Anand Vihar Terminal, Nizamuddin in National Capital Region, Howrah, Bhubaneswar, Agra, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Puri, Amritsar, Hyderabad.

Now find train ticket details on LCD screens

Thanks to a series of changes made at New Delhi railway station, commuters will now get to see their ticket details displayed on LCD screens at the counters. The facility was inaugurated by Delhi Divisional Railway Manager A. K. Sachan on Tuesday.

Mr. Sachan said that it has also now been made mandatory for porters to keep a rate list, which has not been revised since the past one year, with them. To deal with the crowds at the entrance to the Ajmeri Gate side of the railway station, baggage scanners and ticketing counters have been shifted to the inside part of the building.

Talking about the facility Mr. Sachan said: “The LCD screens, which have been strategically placed at every booking counter, will display the ticket details including the name, date of journey, number of tickets purchased, destination, the fare in Hindi and English, and the name of the ticket operator.

If passengers find any mistake on the screen, then it can be pointed out before getting the ticket from the counter.”

The LCD screen facility is available only for unreserved tickets, but Mr. Sachan said the facility will soon be extended to reserved tickets.

The LCD screens which are called as Dual Display Infotainment System will also have entertainment videos, live news, cricket scores, important railways safety videos and advertisements.

Train Enquiry using GPRS at New Delhi station

NEW DELHI: The next time you find yourself lost at New Delhi railway station wondering about the status of your train or berth, forget queuing up at the long winding enquiry counter line because help is at hand, courtesy a new scheme soon to be introduced by Northern Railway.

Under this, the ticket checking staff manning the station entrances and exits would be provided with hand-held devices based on General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) technology which will provide the latest information on train positions just at the touch of its screen after entering the relevant train number.

The information provided to the passenger will include the scheduled arrival time of the train, the duration of delay if any, the new expected time of arrival of the train and the platform number on which the train will be arriving.

According to Divisional Railway Manager, Delhi Division Northern Railway, Ashwini Lohani, two such hand-held sets would be tried out on a pilot basis at New Delhi railway station within the next 10 days and if found successful the service would be extended to Old Delhi and Hazrat Nizamuddin railway stations as well with 10 additional sets being procured.

“The idea is to facilitate passengers who no longer have to run from one counter to another to know the latest update of their train. All they have to do now is approach any of the ticket checking staff present at the station and give them their train number. Once this number is keyed in the hand-held set, the exact information on the train would show up automatically on set’s display screen for the convenience of the passengers,” he added.

Mr. Lohani said: “We are trying to integrate all information provided by the railway telephone enquiry number 139 on these sets. This would also include information of trains running not just on a particular day but also one day before and one day after it as often during fog trains running one day get delayed to the next day as well.”

In addition, the reservation charts pasted on station display boards and causing much overcrowding and confusion too could be a thing of the past with the Northern Railway planning to introduce digital reservation charts on 46-inch LCD display sets.

New Delhi station in for a change

If all goes according to plan, the New Delhi Railway Station will be flaunting a hi-tech building complete with organised ticket booking counters, air-conditioned dormitories, waiting halls, ATMs and food courts — in a month’s time.

In fact, the new three-storied building on the Ajmeri Gate side has already begun partial operations.

“The project has already missed the target deadline but work is on in full swing and nearing completion now. The final phase of construction should be over in a month’s time and operations are expected to begin the following month,” B D Garg, Divisional Railway Manager, Northern Railways, said.

Booking counters on the Ajmeri Gate side were earlier located in makeshift sheds, with queues usually spilling out on to the main road. The new building, which is a part of the world class station plan, has been designed to create space at three levels and give a facelift to the station, Northern Railways officials said.