Shatabdi is the heart of Indian railways

One of the best ways to see India is to undertake a train journey, and the Shatabdi Express – the heart of Indian railways – is one such rail network that offers one of the best options for domestic travellers, says travel guide book Lonely Planet.

After enabling curious Indian travellers to experience the world via outbound travel guides specifically designed for Indian travellers last year, Lonely Planet is exploring the domestic Indian market with its new series of ‘pocket travel guides’.

The first in the series of pocket books titled, “Holidays by Shatabdi” was recently launched in the capital as a guide to destinations easily reachable by Shatabdi from Delhi, Bangalore and Chennai being next in the series.

“After the launch of our Lonely Planet for the Indian Traveller series last year and Short Escapes travel guides series in March 2013, we decided to tap those tourists who use the services of Shatabdi Express to travel to destinations in the sub-continent,” says Sesh Sheshadri, General Manager, Lonely Planet India.

“Shatabdi Express being one of the most popular trains in this genre was first on our mind when we decided to come out with a guide for train travellers.’Holidays by Shatabdi’ enables travellers to make the most of their trips by visiting destinations near the city. The first in the series is for travellers who board Shatabdi from Delhi,” he added.

Also on the agenda are a set of books that can take the cinema loving tourist to places inside the country that have a Bollywood connection.

“The ‘Bollywood Escape’ series will focus on places which are known for some bollywood connection, be it a shooting spot for any movie or something other,” Sheshadri told PTI.

According to him, whenever we think about luxury travelling from Indian railways the international tourists zero down on options like Deccan Queen, Maharaja Express or Palace on wheels.

“But we cannot ignore the domestic travellers for whom Shatabdi can also be an option for luxury and comfortable travelling, ” he said adding, “the domestic market is much bigger considering the number of Indian rail travellers every year and hence our effort is to provide the travellers, the benefit of travelling with authentic information.

The guide being pocket size is a quick read for anyone on the go and enables travellers to make the most of their time by exploring destinations close to Delhi. The travel guide lists all the must see tourist destinations with comprehensive details about places to stay, food, and shopping.

Priced at Rs. 140 each, the guide also features value-for-money suggestions for travellers along with expert travel tips and advice. It gives a detailed picture of fun filled activities for all interests and age groups.

Compiled by a team of five travel writers including Juhi Saklani, Karuna Ezara Parikh, Parvati Sharma, Puneetinder Kaur Sindhu and Sarah Islam, the guides are produced in full colour and packed with photographs to inspire the readers to pack up their bags and board Shatabdi.

125 years of Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST)

A strong reminder of the colonial roots and strength of Indian Railways, Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST), formerly Victoria Terminus, completes 125 years this month.
A rare combo of Victorian Italianate Gothic Revival architecture and Mughal beauty, the world heritage building came up in 1888. The busiest railway station in the country is a terminus for long-distance as well as Mumbai suburban trains.

It is the only operational world heritage station building.

It is the place where the first page of Indian Railways history was written 160 years ago on April 16, 1853, when the first train was started between Bori Bunder and Tannah (CSTM and Thane) in Mumbai. The initial four services a day ferried about 1,000 passengers.

Today, 1,618 services from the station cater to about 65 lakh commuters every day.

When the British introduced the service for personal convenience they would not have imagined it would one day spread to such proportions covering the length and breadth of the country, 65,000 km in all, and bring about a geographical and socio-economic sea change.

Of the 65,000 km rail network, 54,600 km is broad gauge.

Central Railway then general manager and at present member engineering, railway board, Delhi, Subodh Jain, who has completed 37 years in service, narrates the story of Indian Railways which graduated from narrow/metre gauge (serving “narrow-minded people”) to broad gauge (serving the “broad-minded”).

He explains Cotton Green (a station for suburban trains in Mumbai), dak bungalows and mails.

Before railways, all vehicles were animal-driven. Once James Watt harnessed the power of steam, horse power was replaced.

Subsequently, George Stephenson invented the first steam engine locomotive in 1816 — Rocket.

The first passenger train ran in India on April 13, 1853, and the next day a Parsi booked all its seats for a “joyride”.

Prior to this, trains would bring cotton to Bombay Port to be shipped to Manchester, England.

This is how Cotton Green came into being. It was an exchange where cotton would be brought from different parts of the country for trade.

To start with, horse riders, called dakiye (postmen), would bring mail for viceroys in Peshawar, Delhi, Kanpur and other places.

The places where dakiyes and tired horses would rest and mail change hands came to be known as dak bungalows.

Trains followed the same system and came to be known as mails and loco sheds replaced dak bungalows.

At loco sheds, steam engines low on fuel would be detached and fresh ones loaded with coal would be attached. This was also the time train drivers would go to running rooms for rest.

Initially, all trains carried the suffix mail as their objective was to carry mail, not passengers. So it was Punjab Mail, Frontier Mail.

When the talk of carrying passengers began, Lord Dalhousie suggested Hindustan should have broad gauge, not metre or narrow gauge.

After Dalhousie returned to Britain, Indian kings sought narrow or metre gauge.

In 1873, permission was granted to maharajas and Indian rail companies to lay metre gauge lines for passenger transport and a network of chhoti lines was established.

In 1892, it was realised metre gauge caused loss, the service was poor and speed less. This prompted a uni-gauge — one gauge all over India — policy.

Soon, conversion of metre gauge to broad gauge began. Areas that already had broad gauge lines saw rapid industrial development with an influx of labour. Labourers migrating from metre gauge areas — Kutch in Gujarat, north Bihar — to broad gauge areas initially faced ridicule. Dekho, ye chhoti line ka admi hai!

Thus, populations were gauged — residents of developed areas (broad gauge), those of backward areas (metre gauge) and of no-development areas (no rail network).

Bombay Baroda Central Indian Railway was initially Central Indian Railways. But when the British sought to lay a rail line in Baroda, the king of Baroda told them the company name should also include the state name.

This is why Dadar is both BB (Bombay Baroda) and TT (Tram Terminus). The trams would run between Regal Cinema and Dadar.

Railways reboots PPP programme

This is one green flag that many are not willing to let go of. Within two months of the government issuing a note allowing companies to own and operate private railway lines to transport goods, Indian Railways has received investment proposals worth Rs 1,360 crore, mostly from logistics companies and ports, an official said. He requested anonymity since he isn’t authorised to speak to the media.

Two months ago, the Railway Board asked its zonal general managers to publicise the new policy that allows ports, mines, logistics parks, etc, to construct and own private rail lines. So far, ports at Dhamra, Rewas and Astranga have submitted proposals to the railway ministry. Several other companies in the ports and mining segments have also shown an interest in building railway lines stretching over 26-67 km.

This is the first time the ministry has come out with a policy inviting private firms to build and also own private railway lines. Prior to 1947, the railways were aclutch of 42 networks of which 32 were operated by private companies owned by the princely states. After Independence, all of them were nationalised to form what is today known as the Indian Railways.

For many years now, the railways has been plagued by losses, prompting the Centre to try out several models of sharing infrastructure work and revenues with the private sector. A Railway Board member told ETthe senior leadership at Rail Bhawan is now convinced that it would be impossible to meet future requirements for transporting goods through the existing rail network. The new policy, cleared by the Cabinet Committee on Infrastructure, has labeled such “new lines” as “nongovernment railways”.

Private players will have to acquire land and build the new lines, and the railways will provide the trains and staff required to run them. A company building a railway line has to meet operational costs and make a payment to the railways while the latter hands over the revenue after deducting a 5 per cent fee.

The railways draws powers from the Railway Act of 1989, which touches upon the idea of non-governmental railways to encourage private ownership.

“Non-government railways could totally change existing business models. As of now, companies need to be situated close to a railway line to cut costs. But since land prices have escalated, this has an impact on project costs. However, with this new policy, companies can buy land in remote areas and then construct their own lines. This will help the private sector build big projects in an efficient manner,” said a railway board official who also didn’t wish to be identified.

In fact, most public-private partnerships in railways had failed because companies had to return ownership of projects to the railways on expiry of lease. “The private sector told us that it was not interested in investing unless it was allowed to own and operate lines. We need the investment to decongest the network and run more trains,” the second official added

Indian Railways: Ten facts you would want to know

The Indian Railways (IR) carries over 25 million passengers daily which is perhaps more than the entire population of Australia, New Zealand and Tasmania put together.

The Indian Railways (IR) carries over 25 million passengers daily which is perhaps more than the entire population of Australia, New Zealand and Tasmania put together.

Introduced in 1853, the first passengers train in India chugged from Victoria Terminus (now CST) to Thane on a 53-km route, 25 years before China laid its rail network.

The IR is also the largest employer in the country and the eighth-largest, globally. With an employee-strength of over 1.4 million, it is larger than number of people employed at the top three industrial groups-Tata, Reliance and Birla.

The CST caters to 33 million passengers annually and is the only terminus in the world to be listed as a monument of global heritage by UNESCO.

Mumbai’s local trains are amongst the world’s few to have 15 coaches. Shanghai’s local trains come close with 12 coaches.

The Himsagar Express that covers a distance of 3,573 kms from across the entire country, from Kanyakumari in the south to Jammu-Tavi in the north can be compared to the tenth longest network in the world extending from Emeryville to Chicago covering 3924 kms in the US.

Even after recent hike, fares on long distance journeys on the IR can be considered cheapest in the world. For instance, 1,500 kms journey on Delhi-Kolkata route by Kalka Mail costs around Rs 250. A similar journey would cost ten times more on any budget train in Europe which boasts of strong rail transport.

There is no railways station in the entire Asian sub-continent which has a longer name than Venkatanarasimharajuvariipeta station in Tamil Nadu.

Ever since its origin in 1853, the rail service in India never turned back making it one of the oldest track in the world.

Ircon signs MoU with Chhattisgarh govt for rail corridors

Aiming at expansion of railway infrastructure for smooth movement of passengers and freight in Chhattisgarh, the state government has joined hands with Ircon and South Eastern Coalfields for construction of about 300 km of rail network.

A MoU envisaging the development two rail corridors in the state was signed between Chattisgarh government, South Eastern Coalfields Ltd (SECL) and Ircon in Raipur last week, said a release.

The rail corridors project will be implemented in joint venture model in which Ircon, a subsidiary of railways, will hold 26 per cent equity and the balance will be held by the state government and SECL.

The project — East Corridor and East-West Corridor — would come up at an estimated cost of Rs 4,000 crore.

While East Corridor will be about 180 km from Bhupdevpur—Gharghoda—Dharamjaygarh up to Korba, the 112-km long East-West Corridor will be from Gevra Road to Pendra Road.

The corridors are expected to facilitate movement of passengers as well as freight traffic mainly coal.

The preliminary work on the corridors will start this year.

Govt to rope in private companies to build rail network

NEW DELHI: The government has decided to rope in the private sector for building rail lines and connectivity projects to create additional rail transport capacity in the country.

The railway ministry has come out with a new scheme, which would provide discounts on freight charges to private companies that invest in rail connectivity projects. “The policy aims at making railways a more competitive option for prospective customers and also help increase the railways’ freight business,” said an official.

Significantly the scheme, which is applicable to new line proposals that are over 20 kilometres in length, also allows private players to build railway lines on privately acquired non-railway land. They would be expected to enter into a contract with railways to operate and maintain the line for a period of 30 years. Railways will levy a fee up to 4% on the earnings from such lines.

Railways has also provided three other investment options to private players, barring iron ore and coal miners.