Railways offers PPP-mode revival of defunct stations

With the Municipal Corporation offering to renovate the defunct Thudiyalur railway station at a cost of Rs 39.85 lakh, residents of colonies along the Coimbatore — Mettupalayam road section want the remaining three stations also to be revived.

After repeated representations, the Southern Railway was now operating three special services in addition to a regular service. There were eight services from Coimbatore to Mettupalayam and from Mettupalayam to Coimbatore and the train has received overwhelming patronage. Mettupalayam People’s Welfare Federation convener T.T. Arangasamy has appealed to Southern Railway to increase the frequency with two more services in either direction and also to operate the services on Sundays. The train service now has only two stoppages at Perianaickenpalayam and Karamadai and the residents’ demand was to revive Veerapandi, Pudupalayam, Thudiyalur and Urumandampalayam railway stations. The Coimbatore — Mettupalayam section has a number of residential colonies, industries and educational institutions accounting for a steep increase in passenger traffic. A stop for these four pairs of trains would serve more passengers, Mr. Arangasamy said.

Meanwhile, the Southern Railway has offered to revive the defunct stations, provided the stations were renovated under the Public — Private Partnership (PPP) mode also known as Shramdhan scheme. As far as Thudiyalur railway station was concerned, the erstwhile Thudiyalur Town Panchayat (presently an added area of Coimbatore Corporation) had passed a resolution to this effect.

Now, the Coimbatore Corporation has also passed a resolution on September 19 to renovate the Thudiyalur station i.e., the station master’s room, platforms and toilet facilities at a cost of Rs 39.85 lakh. The Vellakinar Town Panchayat, vide its communication dated August 16, had communicated its willingness to renovate the Urumandampalayam railway station and provide basic amenities. With regard to Pudupalayam and Veerapandi railway stations, the Railway Struggle Committee and respective local residents’ associations were in talks with philanthropists and corporate houses to seek their contribution for station renovation works.

Mr. Arangasamy also appealed for increasing the platform length at Mettupalayam and Karamadai besides extending the Coimbatore — Mangalore Passenger Train No 56323 and 56324 up to Mettupalayam. With regard to electrification of the section, Railway sources said the scheme was sanctioned in 2012 — 2013 at a cost of Rs 26.08 crore and the tenders had been opened. Railway Electrification, Allahabad, will commence works shortly.


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.


Train footboards turn death traps in summer

The onset of summer has become a cause of concern for railway officials. The scorching heat coupled with overcrowded trains has led to a greater number of people dying while travelling on train footboards as passengers choose to risk their lives by travelling on the footboard to soak in the cool breeze rather than stay in the bogie cramped with at times as many as 400 people.

In summer there are three to five cases per month of deaths caused by footboard travelling in the Visakhapatnam Railway Station (VRS) limits, which stretches till the Kasimkota railway station on the Vijayawada line to Kothavalasa station on the Vizianagaram line, informed the Government Railway Police (GRP) station house officer (SHO) at VRS, A Parthasaradhi.

In the last two months, at least six persons have died after having fallen asleep on the footboard, said GRP sources.

The maximum number of cases occur between 2 am to 5 am, when those travelling on the footboard tend to fall asleep, said Parthasaradhi. The incident is uncommon during the monsoon and in winter as footboard travellers stay inside the bogie to take shelter from the rain and the cold.

In addition to the GRP at VRS, which falls under the East Coast Railways (ECoR), railway police stations falling under Tuni, Samalkot and Rajahmundry, Palasa, Vizianagaram and Srikakulam Road stations are vulnerable points for deaths caused by footboard travelling as almost all trains move fast on these points at night.

Police said that they have been unable to control the cases of deaths caused by footboard travelling despite measures such as awareness camps and counseling programmes for passengers at railway stations and inside trains.

Railway police claim that they give priority to conducting awareness or counseling programmes instead of imposing punishment on offenders under Section 156 of Railway Protection Act, according to which travelling on the roof, steps or footboard of any carriage or an engine or any other part of a train is prohibited and passengers found flouting these rules shall be punishable with imprisonment for three months or a fine of Rs 500.

“A special patrolling team keeps a vigil on the passengers travelling on the footboard of trains. The team wakes up the passengers if they are found sleeping on the footboard,” said Railway DSP (for GRP) V Bhima Rao.

K Sudhakara Rao, a school teacher from Vijayawada, who was at the Vizag railway station, said that no passenger wants to travel on the footboards or hang from doors or windows of trains. The railways is not increasing the number of general compartments, despite repeated appeals from passengers. “We can control the deaths as well as the footboard travelling by increasing the number of general bogies from the existing four to at least six in each train,” Sudhakar said.

A senior railway official said that a general bogie is always occupied with nearly 400 to 500 passengers against its maximum capacity of 120.

The railway divisional manager at Visakhapatnam, Anil Kumar, told TOI, “I will definitely bring the issue of augmentation of general coaches to the notice of the railway board and also instruct my staff to take all possible steps to control the footboard travelling in this summer.”


e-toilets to come up at Tripunithura Railway Station

The Tripunithura Railway Station may soon be able to boast of e-toilets, the first in the district. The e-toilets will be constructed using the funds of P Rajeev MP.

“Many such toilets have been installed at various schools in the district. A part of the fund will be set aside for an e-toilet at the railway station,” P Rajeev said.

He was speaking to reporters during his visit to the Tripunithura Railway station along with Divisional Railway Manager (DRM) Rajesh Agarwal on Saturday.

A proposal to start ‘she-toilet, exclusively for women, has also been mooted. The she-toilet facility will consist of a sanitary-napkin vending machine and an incinerator for destroying the used napkins.

The decision to set up the high-technology e-toilet will be a relief to the passengers at Tripunithura which lacks proper toilet facility at the station.


Published in: on April 23, 2013 at 4:26 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Driven by hunger, mother of 3 becomes first woman porter

Life was perfect for 33-year-old Manju Devi even a year ago — a husband, school-going children and a house of her own. But destiny had something else in store. Following the sudden death of her husband Mahadev Yadav, Manju was left with no choice but to go out to work. Today, she is the first woman porter in Rajasthan.

It is not easy. Every step she takes at the Jaipur railway station attracts eyeballs. The weight of disapproval is the heavier load to tote.

But why did she become a porter?
“I would do anything to feed and educate my children,” Manju said simply. Anita, 13, Aarti, 12, and Rahul, 10,study at a private school. “I want them to be educated, not illiterate like me,” she said.

“Back in my village, the land was barren,” Manju explained. “I did not even get work under MNREGS. I had no option but to continue my husband’s profession.”
Getting a license was not easy either. But her brother-in-law helped her and so did her husband’s friends. “She was adamant. ‘How can I let my children starve,’ she asked us,” said Shiv Dayal, a porter at station.

“We hope the government does something for her.” Manju has a more modest wish: “I hope another woman joins as a porter, so I have someone to talk to here.”


Published in: on March 19, 2013 at 4:46 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Railway station built & operated by villagers

BALWANTPURA-CHAILASI: This small halt station of Balwantpura-Chailasi in the Shekhawati region never looks up to Indian Railways for day-to-day maintenance. Nor does it throw up fancy wish list to railway minister. It’s a model station built, owned and operated by the villagers themselves. It’s hard to believe that a village, which is devoid of even basic amenities, has a station to talk about. This is an example finance minister would like citizens of India to emulate.

A rare success story of community participation, this halt station celebrates the entrepreneurial spirit of Shekhawati — the land of Mittals, Birlas, Goenkas and Ruias.

Villagers of this nondescript hamlet had been voicing the need for a halt station since 1996. They did every possible thing to move the government — right from approaching local MP to the headquarter of railways, and also writing to railway minister. But it all fell on deaf ears.

Desperation for a halt station brought villagers of five panchayats together. They pooled in Rs 15 lakh and constructed halt station on their own. But constructing a halt station alone was not going to solve their problems. Stoppage of trains too was crucial. “Station without train-stoppage is just like a cart without a horse. Railways was not willing to stop trains and deploy staff at this small hamlet. We kept up the pressure, met every single authority requesting for a 2-minute stoppage of shuttle trains,” says Ramsukh Sharma, who was part of that delegation.

After a long drawn battle, in 2006, villagers finally succeeded in persuading railways to stop trains at the station. However, the authorities told villagers to manage and maintain the halt station with their own resources. “Railways don’t spend on any thing except the track maintenance. The management of the station is with villagers. Such initiatives can promote public partnership and help government cut expenditure and tame unsustainable deficits,” says northwestern railways DGM (general) and chief public relation officer Lalit Bohra.

At present, eight local trains stop at this station. But railways don’t have any ticket counter here. However, it does have other facilities like any other small station — drinking water, benches, toilets, etc. “Tickets are being sold by moving guards of trains. Now, railways are planning to appoint ticketing agent for this station,” Mr Bohra said.

This station is a picture of true Bharat. It has changed lives of many like 25-year old Rajendra Chaudhary. He had to walk 20 km every day to Nawalgarh to catch a train to Jaipur where he works in an electronic shop. Now he catches train from his own village reducing the travelling time. Like him, a person from every household is now working in Jaipur bringing back prosperity to the village.

The station is a boon for cancer patient Gamini Devi who too catches train from here to visit her doctor in Jaipur. “We want to set up an example for people who waste their time and energy cursing the government. We have the power. Do things on your own and let the government think that life can be better without them,” says 65-year-old Shyam Jangid who oversees the station management.