Soon, better food and facilities on trains

Very soon you can expect better food and facilities in trains as Northern Railways is going to implement a new catering policy.

Northern Railway General Manager Vijay Kumar Gupta announced on Saturday that the division will also contract a new caterer.

Releasing the new timetable, Gupta said: “The food quality on trains operating under the Northern Railways will be much better from now. It is a continuous process. We provide food to around a lakh people daily.” The new schedule will come into effective from July 1.

Gupta also announced 42 new trains, including 33 express trains and nine passenger trains. Frequency of nine trains have been increased while the routes of 15 express and two passenger trains have been extended. To curb the menace of touts in railway bookings, he said the Northern Railways has constituted a team of officers and inspectors of the commercial department and Railway Protection Force to check all important outlets. Additional general manager BP Gupta, chief operating manager Mohd Jamshed, chief commercial manager Vijaya Sinha, divisional railway manager AK Sachan and other senior officers were present on the occasion.

Heritage train to Shimla back on track

The grand old queen of the hills is back. The northern railways has restored the heritage train to Shimla, dating back to 1927. The train, which had to be discontinued in the wake of wear and tear of the wheels, is back on track. It resumed daily runs from Shimla on Tuesday and the seats are full.

The train wears a new look after modification. As of now, its most interesting feature is the transparent roof. The motor car departs from Kalka to Shimla at 5.10am and reaches Shimla at 9.50am. It leaves from Shimla at 4.25 pm and reaches Kalka station at 9pm. There are 12 seats in the motor car and the fare for each seat is Rs 275. A ticket in an ordinary train costs Rs 40.

The train was introduced by the British in 1927. But it had to be taken off the tracks because its wheels, which had not been replaced ever since its introduction, had worn off. It was also difficult to find a manufacturer who could supply the key parts for maintenance.

The rail car was constructed to reduce travel time to the British summer capital from several days by elephant, horseback and hand-pulled rickshaw to a humane four-and-a-half hours. It traverses 96 km from Kalka to Shimla at a speed of 30 kms per hour, passing through 864 bridges, 102 tunnels and about 900 sharp curves and turns.

P K Sanghi, DRM at the Ambala division, said the response over the last three days has been overwhelming.

Railway ticket discount to be restricted to basic fare

The railway ministry has decided to restrict the discount on rail tickets to beneficiaries to the basic fare.
From April 1, the concession will be given only on base fare component of the ticket, and it will not be provided on catering, reservation and supplementary charges.

Speaking to Hindustan Times, Neeraj Sharma, chief public relations officer, Northern Railways, said the concessions applicable in Rajdhani, Shatabdi, Jan Shatabdi and Duronto trains would not be granted on catering, reservation and supplementary charges, including superfast surcharge, enhanced reservation charges, and taxes for the these trains.

He said, “The catering charges for these trains were inbuilt as part of the ticket fare. As such, the taxes levied thereon need to be incorporated based on sector-wise calculations. The service tax changes year after year, so the tax element will be separated from the apportionment of catering charges and sector-wise service tax will be calculated separately.”

He said while all other prevailing taxes — VAT, general service tax and new taxes — would be imposed under the governing law, the tax on catering services rendered in these trains where catering charges are included in the ticket fare, would be collected by railways from the passengers separately.

A railway reservation ticket includes basic fare, reservation charge, safety charge, service tax, additional superfast charge and catering charge.

Currently, beneficiaries get concession on catering, safety and other supplementary charges on such trains. But from April they would get concession only on basic fare while the charges would be taken separately on various services offered on the reserved tickets.

“The beneficiaries will now have to pay an additional amount of Rs. 80 to Rs. 100 on their tickets,” Sharma said.

The concession in fare is availed by senior citizens, disabled, patients, medical professionals, war widows, students, artists, sportspersons and national awardees, which varies for each of these categories.

Rewari Steam Locomotive casts its Bollywood net wide

Resurrection of the Rewari Steam Locomotive Shed of the Northern Railways has turned the 120-year-old heritage structure into a hotspot for Indian filmmakers.

The loco shed is providing an ideal shooting location for a number of upcoming Bollywood flicks, including Shahrukh Khan starrer Chennai Express and Bhaag Milkha Bhaag with Farhan Akhtar and Sonam Kapoor in lead role.

Similarly, Munna Bhai and 3 Idiots fame Rajkumar Hirani has also sought permission for shooting his next film ‘P.K.’ starring Amir Khan and Anushka Sharma at Safdarjung railway station in the Capital in February-March next year.

Railway officials said Bhaag Milkha Bhaag was shot in the Rewari loco shed and the Farrukhnagar railway station in Rewari from October 8 to October 31. Some of the sequences picturising the childhood of Milkha Singh were shot in the railway colony in the neighbourhood of Rewari station. Directed by Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag is based on the life of legendary athlete Milkha Singh, who spent his childhood residing along the railway tracks after he came to India hiding behind the corpses in a train after partition in 1947.

According to Northern Railway officials, Rewari loco shed, being the only surviving steam loco shed in India housing some of India’s last surviving steam locomotives, had become an ideal choice for filmmakers. Officials said that filmmaker Rohit Shetty had approached the Northern Railway seeking permission to shoot for his upcoming film Chennai Express in the Rewari loco shed. The shooting for the film is likely to begin in December.

“Having remained in neglect for decades, the heritage shed in Rewari is back to its glory now. Witnessing the Black Beauties at the loco shed is pure nostalgia of an era gone by. Some sequences of Bhaag Milkha Bhaag were shot in a four-coach train driven by the broad-gauge steam engine ‘Angadh’ which had just arrived at Rewari after an overhaul at Amritsar,” said a senior railway official. Made in 1930, Angadh is the oldest of all working steam engines in India. “The producers of Bhaag Milkha Bhaag had requested for a special train for two days which was provided to them immediately,” he added.

Officials said Hirani has sought permission for using the railway platform and a special train from March 11 to 14 next year at Safdarjung station, which is the originating point of luxurious Palace on Wheels. “Superstar Amir Khan will be shooting at Safdarjung Station on March 11 and 14. The two-day gap will be used for setting up the location,”they said.

“The steam loco shed in Rewari has become favourite tourist destination for steam lovers and history buffs. It also has much to offer to the present generation who have not witnessed the glorious steam era. With a rural background, the loco shed provides a perfect setting for picturising the past era in films,” said Northern Railway CPRO, Neeraj Sharma. Officials said this would generate revenue for the Northern Railway besides promoting the heritage shed through movies. Sources said it would earn nearly `4 lakh per day to the railways besides a security deposit of `2.5 lakh for a four-coach train and a steam engine for shooting purposes.

It may be noted that the Rewari Steam Loco Shed was re-opened on October 9, 2010 after several years of neglect. The locos at the shed have appeared in films such as Gadar: Ek Prem Katha, Guru, Love Aaj Kal and Gandhi among others.

Heritage walk to spread awareness about Kalka-Shimla railway

Shimla, July 5 (ANI): A group of officers and employees of Indian Railways on Sunday began a three-day walk to create public awareness about the Kalka-Shimla railway line in Himachal Pradesh, a UNESCO world heritage site.

Buzz up!Fifteen officers and employees of northern railways set upon the walk through the tracks between Kalka and Shimla to create awareness among the people about the importance of the tracks.

“The main objective of this heritage walk is to create awareness in the public, the travelling passengers and our own staff and officers about the heritage status railway line and to know about the safety aspects, various problems in maintenance of this railway line so that we can improve the bridges, tunnels and other things of this important heritage railway line,” said Nar Singh, a senior railway officer.

Built by the British in 1903, the train has been well greased by the Indian railways to keep it chugging for over a century.

The six-hour journey from Kalka to Shimla takes the train through 107 tunnels and connects a number of hill resorts, including Dharampore, Taksal, Gamma and Solan.

The journey offers the passengers a picturesque view of the Himalayan valleys and the train has become very popular with tourists, not only from India, but also abroad.

“Basically, as you know, the Kalka Shimla line now this is world heritage this has become very important for the whole world from the monitoring point of view. We want to retain it, we want to improve it. It is an important event in my life and in railway’s life,” Y.P. Sing, divisional railway manager Ambala.

The other Indian railway sites -Darjeeling Himalayan toy train, Nilgiri Mountain Railway and Chhatrapati Shivaji railway station are already on the UNESCO list. By Hemanth Chauhan (ANI)

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.

Railways offer prime land for commercial activities

Chandigarh: Type of `activity’ yet to be decided; a mall or hotel likely, say sources

Realising the worth of a huge chunk of land lying vacant with it, the Northern Railways has proposed commercial activities on it in collaboration with some private parties.

Two pieces of vacant land measuring a total of 65 acres, which have been offered to the Railway Land Development Authority (RLDA), would
be given on leasehold or licence basis for commercial development.

Recently RLDA, a body formed especially for the development of
railway land, had asked the Northern Railways to identify the vacant land with the Chandigarh railway station that can be commercially exploited.

Based on the suggestions and recommendations, railway authorities
selected two plots on main Madhya Marg. The area of these two plots
is 57.5 acre and 7.5 acre respectively.

“The Northern Railways has selected two plots for commercial development and offered them to RLDA. These plots are near the Territorial Army area on the Madhya Marg. The total land with the Chandigarh railway station is around 490 acres, out of this around 65 acres has been identified for commercial activity,” said Divisional Railway Manager H K Jaggi.

Though it is yet to be decided as to what type of commercial activity
will come up on the vacant land, sources said keeping in mind the
location, a mall or a hotel is likely. According to RLDA members looking after the project, the land would be given either on leasehold or licence basis to a private party for a limited period.

Under the RLDA Act, a vacant land can be used for commercial purposes
by all the other means but selling it to a private party.

According to railway officials, a survey would be conducted to conclude what kind of property is in demand. “Consultants would be
appointed to conduct a survey for the use of this land. The final decision would be based on the survey report but there are chances that a hotel or a commercial mall might be built on these plots,” said Jaggi.

A budget hotel is also coming up at one of the other vacant land plots with the railways.

This project is handled by IRCTC which will come up on a land on the
inner-connecting road to the railway station.