Same platform to board bus and buy train tickets

Frequent traveller Deepak Panda jumps out of the bus and makes a dash to the railway station to know about train schedule. Panda’s hassle might end if the development authority’s plan to have railway booking counters and an information centre at the bus terminus takes shape.

According to preliminary plans drawn up by the Bhubaneswar Development Authority, the terminus will be developed into a multi-storey complex. The ground floor will be used for parking buses and booking tickets. The upper storeys will house railway reservation counters and an information kiosk.

Vice-chairman of the authority Vishal Kumar Dev said the development authority had several meetings with the East Coast Railway regarding makeover of the complex. “It was decided that while the ground floor would be used for parking of city buses and providing space for passenger amenities, repair workshops and allied facilities, the railway could use the upper floors to set up enquiry kiosks and booking counters.” The last meeting was held in May.

The authority has engaged an architect to draw up a detailed plan for the project. On the other hand, the railway also has plans for expansion of the existing station and addition of two more tracks near platform No. 1.

With expansion of two more tracks, the station building, housing the office of the station master and other offices, will have to be demolished along with the booking counters. Some of these could be relocated to the nearby bus terminus complex.

As daily commuter Panda said: “The railway booking counters and information kiosks should be located in a spacious area and the authorities should act on their plan as soon as possible.”

At present, the railway ticket-booking counters and information kiosks are located several metres away from each other. Once it is near the city bus terminus, passengers can know the timings of trains easily after arriving there.

Chief public relations officer of the railway J.P. Mishra said: “It was decided that the development authority will prepare a master plan for the land where the city bus terminal is situated. Once we get the master plan, we will respond to it immediately.” He said once the authority finalised its plan, the railway, too, would start working on its expansion project.

A senior railway official said while the Rs 80-crore station renovation plan was getting delayed due to funds crunch, the state government had offered to bear 50 per cent cost of the project to ensure a modern railway terminal.


• City bus terminus near railway station to become modern transit point for both bus and train passengers
• Ground floor to become pick-up and drop point for bus passengers
• Other floors to have ticket-booking counters for trains and enquiry kiosks
• Architect engaged to prepare terminal master plan

Few takers for railways’ auto freight scheme

The Indian Railways’ automobile freight trains operator scheme has evoked a lukewarm response with just one automaker and logistics provider evincing interest five months after the launch.

Maruti Suzuki, the railways’ biggest automotive client, is the only automaker to have placed orders for rakes under the scheme. Delhi-based logistics provider APL Vascor has signalled its intent to sign an agreement with the Railways.
Industry body Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) said its members are reviewing the new policy.

“There are a few issues. For instance, the rates proposed by the railways are not competitive for short distance movement as compared to road. Also, some type of concession to recover the investment made for purchasing the rakes would also be desirable,” said Sushil Kumar, an adviser at SIAM.

“The auto sector is in a downturn, so everybody is waiting for someone else to invest,” said a senior railway ministry official involved with the issue. “Maruti, our biggest customer – they constitute 60% of our auto traffic – is on board. APL Vascor’s licence should be finalised soon. The others are waiting and watching…a couple of Japanese companies like Nissan have approached us. It will take a year to take off at least,” the official added.

Nissan refused comment on the policy but said it is not looking at using the railways for transportation of its cars.

MM Singh, chief operating officer (production) at Maruti Suzuki, said his company has placed an order for three rakes.

“Each railway rake will have a capacity of moving around 300 cars in one go. The company plans to gradually transport more and more cars by railway rakes. Based on the experience of the initial three rakes and the business needs, we will consider inducting more rakes for transportation of our cars,” Singh said.

People close to the matter said that even Maruti has not yet signed a concession agreement as the railways is finalising it based on the new automobile freight train operator policy. “The railways are in discussions with the stakeholders and have sought their views for this. We too have shared some inputs for their consideration. We are hopeful that this will be finalised soon,” Singh said.

Experts said the discontinuation of rebates provided in the earlier policy and charges on movement of empty rakes could limit private investment in the scheme.

But the Railways seems to be in no mood to offer more relaxations. “The current rates for running automobile rakes are quite low and they have been fixed in a very transparent manner,” another railway official said. “We are charging for empty runs because we need to cover our own costs and so that the operators are forced to develop new routes. We are not looking at giving any more concessions in the policy.”

New ‘tatkal’ regulations to tighten noose around touts

Those buying railway tickets under the tatkal scheme for their family members, relatives or friends from computerised reservation centres will now have to produce original identity proof. The Pune railway division has announced that this new rule shall come into effect from May 6.

This arrangement has been made apparently to keep touts and illegal agents at bay and ensure that only genuine commuters get reserved tickets under the Tatkal scheme.

“If any person who buys reserved ticket under tatkal scheme for anyone who would be travelling, then the former would have to produce original proof of his identity. Moreover, he will also have to hand over the xerox copies of his own ID proof and that of the passenger along with the filled up requisition form to the booking clerk at the counter,” said a railway official.

The officials claim that the Pune railway division is doing its best to tackle the problem of touts and illegal agents, who reserve tickets on bogus names and then sell them off a premium to commuters who do not get reservations.

“Since this is the peak season, there is tremendous rush for reservation in virtually all long distance trains originating from Pune. This new measure announced by Pune division would make things tough for the touts,” said a railway official.

The 10 identity proofs that would be accepted by the Pune railway division include voter photo identity card issued by the Election Commission of India, passport, PAN card, driving licence, photo identity card with serial number issued by Central/State Government, student identity card with a photograph issued by a recognised school/college for their students, nationalised bank passbook with a photograph, credit cards issued by banks with laminated photograph, ‘Aadhaar’ card and photo identity cards with serial number issued by public sector undertaking of State/Central Government, district administration, municipal bodies and panchayat administration.

Immune to toothless law, touts derail surveillance

Despite repeated drives against touts who illegally sell rail tickets at a premium, the offenders, exploiting loopholes in the law, get away with mere payment of a fine even after being caught as many as six times, officials admit.

“Under the Railways Act, for touting one can only be fined Rs. 5,000 or be imprisoned for a maximum of six months or both,” an official said.

Exercise blunted

Senior officials insist that though checking has been intensified by the Anti-Fraud Squad at booking centres and reservation counters, on platforms and inside trains, and raids have been conducted across areas under Northern Railway, their helplessness in keeping touts behind bars for long periods has blunted the exercise.

After about 120 preventive checks this month, 74 persons were apprehended and handed over to the Railway Police Force for prosecution, a senior official said: “Northern Railway also organised raids on the premises of authorised and unauthorised ticketing agencies in order to prevent blocking of reservation under fictitious names and subsequent sale of transferred tickets.”

During these checks, 52 touts, seven unauthorised JTBSs [Jansadharan Ticket Booking Sewak] were prosecuted under Sections 143/144 of the Railway Act and two passengers were found travelling on transferred tickets.

But, in the end, nothing substantive came out of this as the touts were back at their business once they came out on bail after paying the fine, the official said.

‘Tighter provisions’

“We need tighter provisions and punishment for frequent defaulters. I think the law should be made stricter for the touts who have started taking it for granted,” said another senior railway official.

Railways plans to shortlist travelling doctors to attend patients in trains

Keeping in mind the emergency medical needs of passengers, while travelling in a train, Railways has decided to use the services of doctors travelling in that particular train. While, it was done earlier also, the difference this time is the organized way in which the railway plans to do it.

Railways will sort out from the reservation charts the names of the doctors travelling in a particular train, prepare a separate travel chart of the doctors and hand it over to the train superintendent along with the reservation chart. Railways extend concession of 10% to doctors in train fare, who are willing to offer their services to passengers in need of medical attendance while travelling in a train. Preparing a separate chart will help the train’s superintendent as he can immediately call up the doctor, as and when the need arises.

The concessional scheme, however, has some practical problems in implementation. The certificates which are needed to be submitted by a doctor to avail the concession makes the process slightly tedious for the doctors, said a railway official. The officials are of the view that the scheme will attract more doctors if the process is slightly simplified. There is also a need to create more awareness about the scheme.

Shatabdi, Rajdhani set to become faster

In a bid to reduce travel time of train journeys, the Railways will induct Electrical Multiple Units (EMU) train sets for all Shatabdi and Rajdhani services. This will increase the speed of these trains to 160 kmph from 90 kmph.The proposed train set will have 21 coaches and with its distributed power arrangement, it is touted to be highly power efficient. Each EMU set will cost the Railways Rs 200 crore.

“The existing locomotive-hauled trains has speed constraints due to poor acceleration and deceleration capabilities. The proposed modern distributed powered EMU train sets will be free from these bottlenecks and will substantially reduce run-time,” said a senior railway official.

Officials say the EMU train sets will have driving cabs at both ends. “This will reduce the required turn-round time of the train at terminal stations by 15 minutes. It is being estimated that such a train set can do an extra trip per day in inter-city route like Delhi-Chandigarh, Delhi-Amritsar or Mumbai-Ahmedabad,” the official said.