A ‘shadow’ regulator for Railways?

In this year’s Railway Budget, there was a proposal to set up a Rail Tariff Authority. A number of international models for a Railway regulator are available, but these are basically designed to specify norms for approval and monitoring of independent train operators and concessionaires. In India, the situation is somewhat different, with the Indian Railways being the principal transport operator. It would be necessary to lay down the role of the regulator in our context.

The regulator should be responsible for setting fares and tariffs, which are fair to the service provider as well as to the customer. The regulator should safeguard public interest and ensure that the monopoly of the operator and its market power is not abused to the detriment of the customers’ interest. Concurrently, the regulator must also protect the service provider against overbearing sectarian and political interests.

Strategic objectives

The strategic objectives of the Government relating to public distribution system, protection of the national borders and development of backward regions should be factored in. Fund requirements for strategic interest projects and for special movements should be separately computed for possible direct support from the central exchequer.

Regulator should lay down the minimum quantum of the service delivery and the quality standards. It should be a confidence-building institution that would encourage public-private participation, which today, at least in the Indian Railways, suffers from a trust deficit.

To ensure independence, the Regulator should be a creature of an appropriate statute enacted by the Parliament. Chapters VI and VII of the Indian Railways Act, 1989, which deal with fixing rates and dispute resolution, would need to be amended.

To ensure transparency, the Regulator should engage in wide-ranging consultations with all stakeholders to arrive at the criteria to be adopted for rate fixing. The process to be followed and the criteria for rate fixing should be clearly articulated and shared with all concerned. The Regulator has to come up with a 24×7 system. Quick response to issues and grievances are essential. An image of impartiality should be built up, both in substance and appearance.

Process of regulation

The process of regulation and fixing of rates should take into account the fact that at present the Railways are a monopoly operator and have no real competitors. Road haulers address different segments of passenger and freight traffic. Comparative data, though useful, are of limited application in fixing benchmarks of railway tariffs.

There are, however, two possible approaches to rate fixing.

Returns on capital: This appears to be a logical method, but our system of accounting would need a total revamp. Capital-based accounting system would be time-consuming and expensive exercise. Further, the capital base of the Indian Railways, accumulated through loans in perpetuity spread over a century and half, is too large. It includes non-operating components, such as hospitals, schools and employee settlements, among others, in a substantial measure. This aggregate capital, when corrected for the present day, costs would generate rates that would be too high and, as such, unrealistic. Even if the capital attributable to the delivery of services is segregated, there would always be a temptation to bloat the capital assets base. This approach is, as such, not recommended.

Benchmark pricing: Initially, a benchmark for rates could be fixed through consultations between the Railways and the Regulator, based on the analysis of sector-wise costs of the audited data submitted by the Railways. Historical trends in fares and tariff would provide valuable inputs to the Regulator. The political interventions that caused distortions in trends should be identified and isolated. Finally, an element of reasonable profit/surplus could be built in.

While basing the rates on costs, it is important to remember that all expenses are not costs. For instance, expenses incurred in celebrations, inaugurations, advertisement of events, providing medical services, running educational institutions, maintenance of settlements, promotion of sports and cultural activities, are expenses but not necessarily costs to be apportioned to the freight, passenger and parcel services. No doubt, a reasonable amount for corporate social responsibilities could be built in.

Simplest way would be to link fares with the Consumer Price Index (CPI) or the Wholesale Price Index (WPI). But, in my view, it would be more appropriate to index it with a statistic that reflects the variation in cost of inputs that directly affect railway tariffs. A Rail Tariff Index (RTI) that comprises cost variations in steel, cement, electrical energy, diesel fuel, lubricants, stores purchases and staff costs could be devised for annual/biannual revisions.

With modernisation, induction of advanced technology and managerial innovations, the productivity of service delivery is expected to improve. This would have a beneficial effect on tariffs that should be reduced taking into account this efficiency factor.

Finally, the Railway infrastructure would need continuous inputs for expansion of system capacity and improving quality of service and safety. The fare box collection would need to be increased to make provision for this urgent requirement.

The rate fixing process would, as such, cover the following path: Fix benchmark rates; escalate rates on the basis of RTI; reduce rates on the basis of efficiency factor; and increase them to provide for infrastructure development.

While rates escalation on the basis of RTI could be applied annually, the efficiency factor and infrastructure development requirements could be assessed once in three years and applied accordingly.

Setting up of an independent Regulatory Authority, would need, among others, an amendment to the Chapter VI and VII of the Indian Railways Act. Given the long list of enactments pending in Parliament, this may take at least two to three years. With elections slated for 2014, the possibility of an early enactment seems remote.

In the interim, therefore, it would be prudent to put in place a “shadow” Regulator entrusted with the aforesaid roles, attributes and methodology for rate fixing. The Regulator could be an individual or a team of specialist commissioners with Railway domain knowledge and a deep understanding of the art and science of rates.

To begin with, this could be a recommendatory body and the Government will have the authority to accept, reject or modify the recommendations.

The Government would be free to address social needs and political dispensations as long as these are fair to both the Railways and the rail users.

The Regulator will place the entire process of rate fixing, along with the back-up data, in the public domain for all to see and formulate a clear picture of the rates scenario and comprehend its implications on the Railway finances and service delivery. Despite being just a recommendatory authority, such a transparent mechanism would enable the political executive to take tough decisions.

The subsidies in various sectors, particularly between freight and passenger, as well as between upper class passenger and the unreserved class services will also be identified by the Regulator to enable the Government to take a call on these issues and enable preparation of a road map for gradual phase out of subsidies.

The Regulator will also identify and recommend areas where the Government is expected to compensate the Railways for the socially desirable expenses.

(The author is the former General Manger of Central Railway.)

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated May 27, 2013)


Another rail fare hike in October?

Come October, rail commuters are likely to be served another dose of fare hike. During that month, the Railways will review the fuel adjustment component (FAC) and the burden arising from the rise in diesel and electricity costs will be passed on to passengers.

The increased freight rates, supplementary and reservation charges announced in the Railway budget for 2013-14 will come into effect on April 1.

Fares for animals and birds too have been raised by at least 25 per cent. Speaking at the National Editors Conference here on Saturday, Railway Board Chairman Vinay Mittal said the FAC would be next reviewed in October. Mr. Mittal said freight charges had been hiked (with effect from April 1) by 5.7 per cent, passing on the entire burden of Rs. 3,300 crore caused by the huge hike of Rs. 10.8 a litre of diesel for bulk purchasers.

The railways had absorbed the load on itself as the fares had been increased in January. In future both the fares and freight rates would be increased to offset the loss.

Oil marketing companies effected a second hike of Re. 1 for bulk purchasers after the Railway Budget was presented. Given the policy decision to pass it on to the consignors and consumers, the next hike in passenger and freight rates is bound to come in October.

In tune with the budget proposals, the Railways have notified the 5.7 per cent across-the-board freight rate hike with effect from April 1, which would yield Rs. 4,200 crore during the next fiscal.

Though the organisation claims it had absorbed the financial loss of about Rs. 800 crore on account of passenger trains, the fact is that the budget proposals increasing reservation fee and supplementary charges for trains, tatkal charges, and clerkage and cancellation charges would mop up more than Rs. 850 crore during 2013-14.

All these revisions have been notified and will be effective on journeys starting on April 1. As per the fine print of the circulars, the tatkal charges would be realised at the rate of 10 per cent of the basic fare for reserved second class sleeper and 30 per cent of the basic fare for all other classes subject to the minimum and maximum charges specified. The increase ranges from Rs. 15 to Rs. 100 depending upon the class.

Second and sleeper classes have been spared from the hike in the reservation fees, while all other high-end passengers will have to shell out increased charges ranging from Rs. 15 to Rs. 35 a person.

Supplementary charges for superfast trains have been increased for all classes ranging from Rs. 5 to Rs. 25. Add to this increased clerkage charges of Rs. 5 for second class and Rs. 10 for all other classes.

Service tax will be levied separately on both the reservation fees and supplementary charges.

Cancellation charges too have been raised by Rs. 5 for second class, while others will have to bear additional burden ranging from Rs. 20 to Rs. 50.

Mr. Mittal said that due to paucity of funds, priority would be given to projects on the verge of completion or considered critical.

The emphasis was on improving the network in mountain States. Jammu and Kashmir, the north-east and Uttarakhand would get priority.

The Qazigund-Banihal section would be commissioned by May first week. The section would pierce the Pir Panjal Himalayan Ranges, thanks to the 11.2-km tunnel.

The Railways were in touch with the J&K government for issuing a composite rail-road ticket to facilitate hassle-free travel for passengers as a direct rail link between Jammu and Srinagar was yet to be put in place.

Trains operate only up to Udhampur and would be linked with Katra soon. But the stretch between Katra and Banihal is posing several engineering challenges.

Environmental clearance was holding up the progress in Sikkim, but work on laying the track up to Rangpo was in progress. In Manipur, work was affected by the economic blockade.

Acknowledging the strategic importance of extending the rail network right up to Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh, Financial Commissioner Vijaya Kanth said a survey had been undertaken.


Proposal for Setting up IRIFM

A proposal to set up Indian Railway Institute of Financial Management (IRIFM) has been included in the Railway Budget 2013-14 at a cost of Rs. 19.26 crore at Secunderabad. The aims and objectives of setting up this Centralized Training Institute include imparting necessary structured and professional training to the officers of Indian Railways responsible for professional management of finances and accounts to enable them to face the emerging challenges and tap opportunities for strengthening the finances of Indian Railways.

The construction work would be taken up in 2013-14 after the Railway Budget 2013-14 is passed in the Parliament and the Institute is expected to start operation in 2014-15.

This information was given by the Minister of State for Railways Shri Kotla Jaya Surya Prakash Reddy in written reply to a question in Rajya Sabha today.


The future is in rail, not cars

The Union Budget and the Railway Budget, presented recently, did not come up with any worthwhile incentives for effecting a shift in the preferences of people from private to public vehicles. However, the recommendation to release 10,000 buses into the urban veins will go down as the most mentionable step in this direction. Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram has proposed these buses to be purchased under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM). The Minister allocated Rs. 14,873 crore for the year for JNNURM, of which a considerable portion will be set aside for new buses, it is presumed. However, it remains debatable if the urban thoroughfares already begging for space under the deluge of traffic would be able to cope with more buses. It mentioned that during the 2009-12, the JNNURM introduced 14,000 buses into towns and cities and these have served as an incentive for people to switch over to public transport.

The allocation is all likely to spur the growth of commercial vehicles, which according to the Society of Indian Automotive Manufacturing (SIAM) could register only 0.2 per cent growth in the last eight months of the current fiscal. Yet another positive signal comes in the form of hike in excise by three per cent for more space-consuming cars like Innova and SUVs. Though increase in Customs duty on imported luxury cars too has been hiked sizably—from 75 to 100 per cent — their market share being very minuscule, the impact will be negligible.

While this might be a reason for cheer at the national level, the fact that a Commuter Rail Service (CRS) for Bangalore has been totally disregarded by the Railway Budget has come as a big dampener. Bodies doing advocacy for public transport such as Praja had welcomed the RITES report (when it was released some eight months ago) as an endorsement of the long-term demand for the Railways meeting the needs of people travelling to and from Bangalore daily. According to Sanjeev Dhamannavar, founder-member of Praja, the Railway budget has also made no allocation for improvement in interconnectivity, signalling, and platforms. Adds Satya Sankaran, another member of Praja, the Railway Budget has come as a big disappointment as the people had canvassed support for the CRS for the last three years.

Intra-State connectivity

Satya says that while any amount of improvement in urban road transport should be welcomed, the intra-State connectivity with Bangalore has been given a go-by. “It is only possible through improvement of the rail network as trains have the ability to access the core of the cities by cutting through the clogged arteries. What is the use of making provision for a VIP Lounge at the Bangalore City Station when the common passengers have to jump over the rails to get to the other platforms or stand in serpentine queues at ticket counter,” he questions.

Incidentally, even the State Budget talks more in terms of making Bangalore more navigable for car-users as it has allocated money for 17 flyovers and underpasses in the city. The Metro Phase II has been allocated Rs. 8,696 crore which does not provide connectivity to surrounding towns.

Even pedestrians’ needs have been ignored totally. Says Sanjeev, “It is an index that pedestrian does not figure anywhere in the scheme of urban mobility for the planners. The traffic congestion has rendered life stressful for the urban residents and the need for foot overbridges, skywalks, subways and user-friendly pathways should have received some attention,” he avers.

Public advocacy groups resent the fact that beneficial and less expensive options such as CRS which could be operationalised with enhancement of the existing infrastructure, do not find favour with the planners any more while money-spinners hog the limelight. They say the State Government failed to push the case of the CRS with the Centre while exhibiting willingness to make the city more car-friendly.


Published in: on March 9, 2013 at 3:41 am  Leave a Comment  

Railway Wheel Design Centre to be a reality soon

The Rail Wheel Factory at Yelahanka will get the country’s first Wheel Design and Research Training Centre (WDRTC) soon, said Union Minister of State for Railways Kotla Jaya Surya Prakash Reddy.

The centre will enable the railways to test wheels manufactured in the country instead of sending them to America.

“The Railway Infrastructure Technical and Economic Services (RITES) conducted a study and prepared a project report. According to estimates, the cost of the project escalated and it will cost more than what was sanctioned earlier. Therefore, the revised estimates has to be approved by the Railway Board,” he said.

Reddy said that the officials have already placed the report before the Railway Board to seek its approval, which may be accorded any time. RITES would start working on the project as soon as the board approves the revised estimates, he added.

At present, the railways ship one sample wheel from each lot to America for testing and certifying their usability before being used for coaches or export, he said.

Reddy also said the wheels and axles are tested to asses their chemical composition, micro and macro properties of the material, magnetic particles, ultrasonic testing, hardness, dimensional parameters and surface finish in accordance with the quality assurance programme of the Association of American Railroads.

Despite being world’s largest railways, Indian Railways does not have a facility to test the wheels manufactured by it, he said. The WDRTC was sanctioned for the city in the 2011 railway Budget with an allocation of Rs 36 crore. However, the project got delayed as funds for the project were not released, he added.


Railway budget set to ditch populism for fiscal health

For the general public, the railway budget is more about fare revisions, new trains and, of late, announcement about bullet trains, but for the man in charge, railway minister Pawan Bansal, the task is cut out. He has already indicated that helping the troubled national transporter to win its spurs by sprucing up its finances is his priority, not populism.

Not too long ago, almost the same time last year, Indian Railways was on the cusp of change with Trinamool Congress MP Dinesh Trivedi, the then rail minister, making all the right noises to rescue the organisation. Alas, Trivedi’s reformist budget cost him his job, thanks to his adamant party chief Mamata Banerjee, whose budgets earlier were marked for absence of much-needed tariff hikes and sundry doles being given out.

Trivedi projected an operating ratio of 84% for IR, a total revenue of R1.35 lakh, the highest ever plan outlay of R60,100 crore and investments from private sector in key rail infra projects. That was not to be as his successor Mukul Roy, at the bidding of Banerjee, chose the populist path.

No wonder, the railways is still stuck in financial turbulence; even struggling to meet its operating expenses.

Bansal till now has played with a straight bat by increasing the passenger fares by 21% in January. But with increased fuel bill, due to hike in prices of bulk diesel, the extra revenue railways was expecting from fare hike has been set off by the increased fuel bill burden.

IR’s fuel bill has increased to an estimated R23,000 crore a year in 2012-13 from R19,700 crore last year.

IR is all set to miss its revenue target by 10% (R15,000 crore). The total goods earnings for the 10 months is R70,067 crore. Railways in its last budget had set a target of R89,339 crore from freight earnings for the current fiscal, which is far from being met. The total passenger earnings for the first 10 months of this fiscal have been R25,924 crore, whereas the target for the current fiscal is R36,000 crore.

With freight charges already very high (India has higher rail freight charges than China and the US) there’s little scope to increase them further as it would take the inflation northwards. Railways’ average income from hauling one tonne of goods over a

one-km distance is R1.08, whereas by moving a passenger for the same distance it earns 28 paise.

“The only option left is to correct the passenger fares again. With such a step, railways can take its operating ratio to 84% from the present 90%,” a rail board official said.

The rail plan outlay for the current fiscal has been slashed by R8,000 crore as it internal generation target couldn’t be achieved. This has forced it to seek higher budgetary support of R38,000 crore for next fiscal, a demand that is unlikely to be fully met by the finance ministry, considering the fiscal stress.In the current fiscal, railways got R24,000 crore as budgetary support.

“The minister is also looking at the non-traffic revenue to mop up some R5,000 crore from leasing out railway land,” the official added.

At present, the railways gets around 5% of its earnings from non-traffic streams, this could be increased to 8% if initiatives such as lease of land and improving the advertisement potential of the national transporter is put to good use.

“The prices of food in elite trains such as Shatabdi and Rajdhani could be increased. The option of excluding water and food from the ticket price and charge for all meals and beverages supplied is also being explored,” the official added. “Charging extra for lower and upper berths can also bring in more revenue,” an official said.
Total rail revenue (BE): Rs.1,35,693 cr
Total revenue till Jan: Rs.1.01 lakh cr
Operating ratio (BE) 84.9%
Operating ration at present: 90%
Revenue from freight (BE): Rs.89,339 cr
Revenue from freight till Jan: Rs.70,067.36 cr
Passenger earnings (BE): Rs.36,000 cr
Passenger earnings till Jan: Rs.25,924 cr


Published in: on February 24, 2013 at 5:15 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Diesel dual pricing may hit Railways’ turnaround strategy

Just when the Indian Railways appeared to have given itself a shot in the arm by raising passenger fares across the board after a gap of almost a decade, it suffered a setback through the sharp hike in diesel prices for bulk consumers. The latter is likely to take away a significant part of the additional revenue that will be earned through higher fares. Though the diesel price hike was, of course, necessary, the problem is that it has not been applied to all consumers; dual pricing means that truck operators will be able to access subsidised diesel at the pump. The Railways will thereby end up buying diesel at a 20 per cent higher rate. Although rail transport is a far more cost-efficient and environmentally friendly method of haulage, the Railways has been losing market share to road transport steadily over time. Now, this additional cost disadvantage will make it difficult to hold on to whatever it has, not to speak of clawing back lost ground.

This setback to finances shortly before the Railway Budget will make it all the more difficult for the Railways to script a turnaround strategy. This is because the other major avenue for raising resources, hiking freight rates, is virtually closed. Freight rates have gone up to a point where any further rise will be resisted by customers and accentuate the loss in market share. Hope of financial recovery, thus, theoretically hinges on two measures. One is through cutting costs. This is difficult because there is no flexibility in outgo under heads such as salaries and pensions, dividend and fuel costs. Though there is always scope to cut wasteful expenditure, for a public sector organisation to do so under current governance realities is unlikely.

Significant additional revenue can be earned by carrying more freight tonnage. This may be partly facilitated by the expected recovery in the economy, which will raise freight offerings. But there is a catch here. Recently, the Railways has followed a flawed pattern for placing orders for new wagons — so that if there is actually more freight to carry, then the Railways may find itself in the invidious position of running into a wagon shortage. Under the circumstance, the only hope for earning more revenue in the coming financial year is by getting more out of existing capacity. The Indian Railways has over the years achieved substantial improvement in the utilisation of rolling stock and other infrastructure. The scope for this is critically dependent on balancing investment in areas such as signalling and goods yards; and commercially attractive new lines, even if short, which improve port connectivity. But it is precisely expenditure heads that affect capacity and safety, like depreciation reserve fund (track renewal), capital fund and development fund, which have experienced cuts in the current financial year. While the Indian Railways must improve existing capacity use and invest more to enhance its ability to carry more freight-earning goods, the government should also move fast on diesel price reforms and eliminate subsidies on retail prices, in order to allow the Railways a level playing field.


De-politicize railways, create independent corporation

Railway fares have finally been raised for the first time in 10 years. Even so, the change may reduce just Rs 6,600 crore of the loss of Rs 25,000 crore on passenger traffic.

Why do governments subsidise rail fares so much and for so long? Of all subsidies, rail subsidies look the least justified. They are not used mainly by the poor, and are in no sense essential. They run mostly in developed areas, and so do not serve truly backward regions. The railways represent 19th century technology that was overtaken by buses in the 20th century, and buses everywhere are far cheaper than trains. So, why subsidise a costly, obsolete mode of travel that has no bearing on poverty or backwardness?

For long-distance journeys like Delhi-Chennai, bus travel may be too inconvenient. But such long-distance journeys are for purposes like business, employment, meeting relatives, pilgrimages and tourism. These do not merit subsidies in a poor country.

Suburban commuting fares are the most subsidized of all. Some analysts argue that this helps poor people come into cities. In fact the overwhelming majority of commuting passengers are travelling for commercial reasons. Casual workers rarely commute by rail.

Commercial commuters adjust the cost of commuting into their sale prices.

Experience shows that if you raise suburban fares, employers will typically raise the conveyance allowance of employees. Corollary: the suburban rail subsidy benefits the employer, not the employee.

The truly poor do not typically commute to work. They set up shanties, illegally, not far from their places of work (an excellent account of this in Kolkata was given in an EPW article by Vijay Jagannathan). In Delhi, 80 per cent of colonies came up this way and were later regularized. Anyway, poverty is extremely low in big cities with suburban trains, so this is hardly a focus area for subsidies.

Besides, cities are getting more and more congested and polluted. A suburban rail subsidy is a subsidy for congestion and pollution. Air pollution is a major cause of disease and death.
In Mumbai, 4,000 people are killed annually by falling off overcrowded trains or being run over. Sad to say, the suburban subsidy encourages even more over-crowding and deaths.

For a decade, the Railways have increased freight rates but not passenger fares. The ratio of fares to freight rates is the highest in the world. So, an implicit tax is being imposed on all goods including exports, just to subsidise passenger fares. This implicit tax on freight raises prices for everybody, and makes exports uncompetitive.

The British Raj instituted a separate railway budget because the railways at the time accounted for a huge chunk of government revenue. But today rail revenue is modest, less than that of an oil company like Indian Oil Corporation.

In our coalition era, the Railway Ministry has become an important patronage post awarded to influential coalition partners. The Railway Minister presents an annual Railway budget to Parliament with almost as much fanfare as the Finance Minister presents the overall budget, a privilege not extended to the railways anywhere else in the world.

The Railways are cynically seen as an avenue for giving jobs and contracts, a huge patronage machine. Railway Ministers constantly sanction new, low-priority railway trains for their favoured constituencies, or create new regional headquarters to justify additional jobs in a grossly overstaffed organization.

How do we end this waste of public money on patronage and unwarranted subsidies? Total escape is politically impossible, but converting the Railways from a government department into a corporation can curb the damage. This has already been done in telecom.

http://epaper.timesofindia.com/Default/Scripting/ArticleWin.asp?From=Archive&Source=Page&Skin=TOINEW&BaseHref=TOIL/2013/01/13&PageLabel=10&EntityId=Ar01002&ViewMode=HTMLDe-politicize railways, create independent corporation

Railways to exploit LTT land to fund CST makeover

Railway authorities are expecting revenue of around Rs.600 crore through commercial exploitation of around 20 acres of open land at Lokmanya Tilak Terminus (LTT).

Sources said this was the Railways’ Plan B in its effort to hasten the ambitious project of developing CST as a world-class station that has been stuck in a heritage tangle for the past three years.

Although it was announced in the railway budget of 2009-10, the development of CST, tagged as a world heritage site, as a world-class station, failed to take off as UNESCO turned down the Railways’ plea to rationalise the buffer zone around CST. A few months ago, it had asked railway authorities to carry out a heritage impact study. Concerned about the future of the project, authorities started exploring other avenues to fund the project.

The Railways had first planned commercial development of its land at Carnac Bunder, to generate revenue for the CST project. Now, authorities are mulling the commercial exploitation of land at LTT. At Carnac Bunder, authorities were planning budget hotels, malls, multi-storey parking and food courts. A top CR official said, “Our estimate is that through commercial development at LTT, we can generate at least Rs600 crore in revenue.”

The ‘Railway Land Development Authority’ (RLDA), the apex body that decides about commercial exploitation of railway land, is now going to study the actual valuation of land through consultants. Pankaj Jain, vice chairman of RLDA, was in town recently to explore the possibility of commercial development of land at LTT, Thane and Haji Bunder.

Jain inspected Thane station and discussed with CR general manager, Subodh Jain, various issues related to the commercial development of railway land.

“At Thane station we have planned to develop a multi-functional station with various passenger amenities such as dormitories, waiting rooms and food courts,” Subodh Jain said.

Subodh Jain also said they had asked RLDA to appoint a consultant to study what could be done to develop railway land at Haji Bunder, where the Railways have another huge piece of land.


High-speed EMU train sets for Rajdhani, Shatabdi

To reduce travel time in train journey, Railways is acquiring Electrical Multiple Units (EMU) train sets for premier services like Rajdhani and Shatabdi Expresses for operating at a higher speed of 130-150 km per hour.

The decision to adopt train sets technology was announced in the 2012-13 Railway Budget.

“We are working on introducing modern EMU train sets designed for operations at maximum speed of 130-150 kmph for running premium Rajdhani and Shatabdi trains, without any additional expenditure on existing track and signalling infrastructure,” said a senior Railway Ministry official.

According to the official, existing rail tracks on Rajdhani routes are fit for running trains up to a speed of 150 km per hour, but average speeds of Rajdhani/Shatabdi trains is less than 90 km per hour due to large number of speed restrictions and poor acceleration of existing loco hauled trains.

The Railways are expecting that the proposed modern distributed powered EMU train sets will be free from these bottlenecks, provide faster and safer movement and will substantially reduce running time.

The proposed EMU train sets consist of 21 cars (coaches) and are estimated to cost about Rs 200 crore per train.

The Railways claim modern train sets are eco friendly, noiseless, consume 30 per cent less energy and do not pollute the environment as in case of conventional loco hauled trains.