Steps taken to curb wild animal deaths due to train hits

National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has asked all the chief wildlife wardens (CWLWs) of tiger range states to take urgent measures for preventing wild animal mortality due to train hits.

The move follows a 10-month-old tiger cub getting killed and another getting seriously injured when a speeding train hit them on April 15 night near Kelzar on Gondia-Chanda Fort section. The injured one, which suffered leg fractures, is still being treated in city.

“Railway tracks pass through several tiger reserves and areas rich in wildlife. Time and again, there are reports of wildlife mortality including tigers, elephants, deer, wild boars, rhinos and other species due to train hits. This has been reviewed at the level of minister of state for environment and forests and urgent measures are reiterated,” says an advisory issued by NTCA member-secretary Rajesh Gopal on August 22.

NTCA has suggested several measures. They include identification of sensitive stretches along the railway tracks based on ongoing Phase-IV monitoring of wild animals, deploying personnel for sharing information about presence of wild animals between forest department and the railways on a day-to-day basis, a monthly joint review by senior officials at division level.

In high train density areas, forest personnel (not below the rank of forester) may be deployed in railway control room to ensure due coordination relating to wild animal movement. In habitats with gregarious wild animals (elephant, gaur, deer etc), herd monitoring should be done on a day-to-day basis in areas close to railway track for updating the railway control room.

A suggestion has also been made to restrict the speeds of trains in tracks passing through wildlife habitat. However, this is not within power of wildlife officials. NTCA also directed installing 24X7 e-surveillance in sensitive portions using intelligent thermal cameras for generating early warning alerts near railway tracks. However, a proposal in this regard for Tadoba is pending with NTCA.

The wildlife chiefs have been told to clear vegetation on the sides of railway tracks along with appropriate luminescent signages for warning the drivers. In coordination with the railway authorities, it should be ensured the track is kept free from food waste from pantry and water accumulation.

SWH Naqvi, principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife), Maharashtra, said the department had already started working on the suggestions. “We have issued the advisory to the field officers. I will also write to railway authorities. However, these recommendations are not binding on railways and there needs to be a law,” Naqvi said.

Pradeep Kumar, senior divisional commercial manager (SrDCM), South-East Central Railway (SECR), says, “No speed restrictions have been enforced by us on Chanda Fort section. We also have not received any advisory from NTCA.”

“Issuing such suggestions to forest department won’t yield anything,” said Bandu Dhotre, honorary wildlife warden of Chandrapur.

NTCA recommendations

Illuminate sensitive tracks through solar lights.

Organize tiger/wildlife sensitization workshops for railway personnel.

Provide information brochures in vernacular in tiger sensitive zones.

Ongoing short-term measures to be complemented by long-term strategy on a site specific basis through overpasses and underpasses, barricading in patches, girder bridges.

Identify sensitive habitats along the tracks.

Declining service life of tracks keeps railways on their toes

With the life span of railway tracks coming down sharply over the years due to increasing passenger-freight operations, higher axle loads on dense traffic routes and corrosion, Southern Railway has set a rail renewal target of 72 kilometres this fiscal as a key component of its measures to maintain safety.

Going by standard estimates, a 60-kg rail segment with a traffic density projection of 800 Gross Million Tonnes (GMT) is about 15 years, but this conventional calculus is being constantly revised, as many rail segments are coming up for renewal in less than half that time, Railway officials said.

With a route length of 5,000 kilometres, Southern Railway is the fifth largest rail network among the 17 zonal railways in Indian Railways network. It runs about 434 suburban trains and 742 non-suburban trains and transports around 2.4 million passengers on an average every day. On the freight front, the originating freight loading from April to July this year was 14.81 million tonnes, the 14 per cent increase over last year being the best-ever loading for the first four months of any year in Southern Railway’s recorded history.

“The upkeep of the vast rail network involves a well-drawn out daily, monthly and periodic maintenance schedule involving men and machines,” said S. Anantharaman, Chief Safety Officer, Southern Railway.

For instance, a track recording car to detect defects, twists or faulty alignment is deployed once every four months in Grade A segments (based on a set of wear-and-tear parameters), once in six months for Grade B sections and once a year for other segments. The data is analysed to arrive at a Track Geometry Index (TGI) value that determines the course of action.

Ultrasonic Flaw Detectors (USFD) to spot weld failures, Oscillation Monitoring Systems to measure vertical and lateral displacement from a normal axis of coaches moving across a particular rail section and tight tamping to bind together caked up ballast are also part of standard procedure, officials said.

Apart from machines, the Railways also deploys gangmen and keymen to physically inspect every bit of the 5,000-km route length.

In the four months of this fiscal, yard derailments have halved from 22 in the same period last year, while mainline accidents dropped from eight to just one.

One of the most common causes for derailments is weld failure. In-house studies in the Railways estimate that rail and weld failures currently account for over 60 per cent of engineering-related mishaps – a sharp rise from the 25 per cent about four years ago.

Commissioner of Railway Safety S. K. Mittal’s preliminary report on the derailment of Muzaffarpur-Yesvantpur Express near Arakkonam on April 10 too has upheld rail weld failure as the cause of the accident that killed one person.

The other significant threat to the health of tracks is coming from corrosion due to exposure to coastal atmosphere or contact with toilet waste. It is estimated that corrosion causes fracture of an estimated 20 per cent of rail lines.

“The Chennai-Gudur and Chennai-Villupuram lines are among the worst affected lines due to corrosion,” said a track engineering official.

Though the Railways has started using corrosion-resistant alloy-rails to beat the problem, the proportion of these rail segments is minuscule with regard to the magnitude of the problem.

Mechanised sanitation at Cantt railway station

The Cantonment railway station will soon witness mechanised cleaning with ultra modern machines for the first time.

According to station manager, AK Pandey, five diesel operated high pressure water jet cleaning machines have arrived to improve the sanitation on the station premises. So far there was only one high pressure machine which was electric operated. Apart from that a new agency with 117 cleaning staff has been contracted to look after the cleanliness on the station premises. It is noteworthy that the railway station has been facing severe sanitary woes for past few months. Several efforts in the past failed to bring any change in the situation, which falls in ‘A’ category in terms of revenue generation.

The station, having nine platforms, remains overcrowded as every 15 minutes it witnesses arrival or departure of trains. Despite that, the railway station has not been upgraded the way it should be in terms of passenger amenities and hygiene.

The railway tracks remain cluttered with waste, the condition near the public convenience also remains the same. The roof of the parcel office at platform number one as well as of the different platforms were found leaking due to damage in pipelines and rainwater accumulated on it.

The condition of waiting area behind the food plaza also remains in a poor sanitary condition.

Apart from the main station building, huge garbage heaps, overflowing sewage and choked drains is what a person gets to see on the Cantonment railway station premises.

“With the increased work force and added machinery, the sanitary conditions in the station will improve in next two days,” claimed station manager, AK Pandey.

Published in: on July 14, 2013 at 4:38 am  Leave a Comment  
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IRCON completes first phase of railway reconstruction project in Sri Lanka

The railway line from Medawachchiya to Madhu Road in the war-ravaged Northern Province of Sri Lanka, part of a 252 km reconstruction project being implemented by Indian public sector company Ircon International Limited, was commissioned and dedicated to the people of the island nation at a function yesterday.

It was a historic occasion as train services recommenced on this section after a gap of 23 years.

Sri Lankan Minister for Economic Development Basil Rajapaksa, Minister of Transport Kumara Welgama, Minister for Industries & Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen, Minister for Traditional Enterprises and Small Industries Development Douglas Devananda and High Commissioner of India Ashok K Kantha inaugurated the long awaited train services on the section.

Deputy Minister of Transport Rohana Dissanayake, General Manager of Sri Lanka Railways B A P Ariyaratne, IRCON Chairman & Managing Director Mohan Tiwari, Ircon General Manager S L Gupta and other senior officials of Government of Sri Lanka were also present on the occasion.

All the dignitaries joined the maiden trip before the inaugural ceremony. The train journey from Medawachhiya took 30 minutes to cover a distance of 43 kms and was greeted with joy by large number of residents of the area on arrival at Madhu Road.

A press release from Ircon said the railway tracks from Omanthai to Kankasanthurai and Medawachiya to Talaimannar were completely destroyed during the devastating years of war in the region.

The Government of India has extended lines of credit to build the 252 kms railway lines in Northern Province and the project was given for implementation to Ircon.

The release said the 43 km segement had been completed as per schedule at a cost of $ 81 million. The reconstructed railway track is designed with a speed potential of 120 kmph, it said.

Work is progressing on the other segments of the project and they are expected to be completed by March 2014.

Published in: on May 18, 2013 at 10:07 am  Leave a Comment  
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Electronic surveillance of tigers near railway tracks

The environment ministry Thursday ordered round the clock electronic surveillance of tiger movements near railway tracks after a tiger cub was killed and another severely injured by a train near Tadoba Tiger Reserve in Maharashtra.

Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan Thursday convened a meeting of senior officials from Railway Board and her ministry to discuss safeguards for preventing tiger deaths due to train hits.

Experts reviewed the country level status on tiger deaths due to train hits, besides the on-going tiger monitoring protocol adopted in the field.

“It was agreed upon to facilitate e-surveillance of tiger movement using 24X7, intelligent, thermal cameras at sensitive points (near railway tracks),” said an official statement.

Besides, the experts called for identification of sensitive habitats in the Gondia-Chandrapur railway sector near Tadoba Tiger Reserve.

“Putting in place a system for sharing of tiger spatial use data in advance between forest department and the railways through wireless on a day to day basis was also agreed upon,” it said.

The railways has been asked to restrict the speed limit of trains to 40 km per hour in the near the Gonda-Chandrapur sector, where accident took place Monday.

–Indo-Asian News Service ric/vd/vm

Keeping tracks neat and clean should be a priority for railways

Indian Railways, according to some media reports, has taken note of urgent need of keeping the railway tracks in clean condition and is doing its bit to achieve the target. However, even today the condition of the railway tracks mainly in and around some railway stations needs massive clean up on a day-to-day basis.

An official was quoted as saying: “Railways has outsourced cleanliness drive in almost every zone – incurring a huge expenditure on keeping tracks clean, particularly at station areas”. The results are not encouraging in some stations even today. One of the options would be to monitor the services of a particular outsourcing agency for a limited time and based on results, they should be changed with a better one.

Human excreta littered on tracks at most of the major stations leads to unhygienic condition in and around the railway station premises. Every railway station should have an earmarked area where all the dust and debris including human excreta should be collected, dumped and incinerated.

It is good to hear that in some railway passenger coaches, bio-digester model toilets were installed on a trial basis. Based on their success, railways had planned to install such toilets in about 2,500 trains during 2012-2013. The railways had also used vacuum discharge model of toilets which are at present used in prestigious Shatabdi Express.

According to various estimates, railways would incur an expenditure of about Rs.25 lakh per coach (per train) for converting the toilets on the pattern of airlines; it would cost about Rs.75,000 per coach for using bio-digester system, whereas an Indian version toilet would cost about Rs.3 lakh per coach. The Railways runs more than 40,000 passenger coaches across the country daily.

Responsible people overseeing the cleanliness aspect should be given more power for changing the present hiring system of contractors doing the cleaning job.

Let’s hope the bio-digester model becomes a huge success and is introduced in almost all the passenger coaches within a limited time frame. Additionally, let’s also hope the railway authorities succeed in recruiting the best of the contractors for doing the job of cleaning in the best possible manner – all leading to more and more satisfaction of the passengers.

Tricks to keep people off the tracks

The Railways is planning to initiate multiple measures, including applying few experiments that were carried out in Mumbai to deter people from straying on railway tracks to prevent deaths due to train hits in Bangalore division.

Divisional Railway Manager Anil Kumar Agarwal said, “Besides initiating various measures, we are experimenting on certain things with some advice from Biju Dominic, a cognitive neural science expert who teaches

in London School of Economics and has done considerable research in minimising the deaths caused by train hits in Mumbai.”

We are trying to apply some of the concepts of cognitive neural science to deter people from recklessly going near the tracks and we have applied such concepts near one of the level crossings between Bangalore and Chickballapur on an experimental basis.”

How it works According to Dominic, human mind is blessed with a capacity to envisage things that happen in the immediate future by seeing certain images and that capacity is called future seeing.

When a person sees a image of speeding train his inherent fear of getting hit by the train starts working on him and he starts envisaging a series of things related to train hits. When he sees the second image of the train his cognitive faculties tell him that the train is coming towards him from a very close distance and that automatically makes him cautious. By the time he sees the image of the terrified face enough inherent fear would have been aroused in him to envisage that he is about to be hit by the train and that makes him cautious.

Dominic said, “Most often the train hit victims are those who recklessly stray on to the railway tracks though they are accustomed to walking on railway tracks due to over confidence or carelessness. Therefore, we applied the future seeing concept at a particular stretch that was known for highest incidents of train hit deaths near Wadala Railway Station in Mumbai and it proved successful.”

Earlier, 30 to 35 people used to die every year due to train hits and that reduced drastically immediately after we erected these posters. In the first six months only nine people died in the next six months only one person died.”

Agarwal said, “We are planning to distribute booklets to caution the commuters about the dangers of straying on tracks in and around the city. Four foot bridges would be constructed at Bangalore East, Whitefield, K R Puram and Malleswaram railway stations to enable the commuters to cross the tracks without straying on them.”

Published in: on January 12, 2013 at 5:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

Railways to cordon off Delhi-Palwal tracks

In a first-of-its-kind move, the Delhi Division of Northern Railway is planning to cordon off sections of railway tracks.

The proposal aims to prevent accidents caused when people or animals cross railway tracks.

On a pilot project, Railways will construct an RCC (reinforced cement concrete) wall on both sides of the tracks in the

51-km Hazrat Nizamuddin-Palwal section.

“An expression of interest has been called, inviting agencies for construction of RCC boundary wall on both sides of the Delhi-Palwal section to prevent trespassing. The boundary wall will run a total of 102 km — 51-km on each side,” a senior official said.

The boundary wall will be 2.5-m high and will have concertina wires at the top.

Officials said a new model has been proposed for construction of the boundary wall.

“The construction of the wall will be completely funded by a private entrepreneur. To make the project viable, in lieu of construction of the proposed wall, the agency will be given exclusive advertising rights on the full length of the boundary wall for a fixed period,” he said.

According to the contract, the private agency will be permitted to install unipoles up to 1.2 m above the wall.

The indicative project cost for the construction of the boundary wall is roughly Rs 100 crore.

A large number of Rajdhani and Shatabdi trains run at speeds of up to 150 km/h on the Delhi-Palwal section. Railways estimates say on an average, one incident of cattle or track crossing impeding train operations is reported every day.

“The move is set to be very helpful keeping in mind safe and smooth operations of high-speed trains and movement of pedestrians and motorists. Raising a boundary wall will be deter people from crossing tracks,” the official said.

Officials said after construction of the Delhi-Palwal wall is completed, a similar project will be undertaken on the Delhi-Gurgaon section.

Published in: on December 15, 2012 at 8:36 am  Leave a Comment  
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Utilisation of Railway Vacant Land for Commercial Development

Indian Railway network occupies a land area measuring about 10.65 lakh acres. Ninety per cent of this land is directly under railway tracks, yards, workshops and allied infrastructure. The vacant land, measuring about 1.13 lakh acres is mostly in the form of a narrow strip along tracks which Railways have been utilizing or plan to utilize for its expansion in the form of doubling, third line, quadrupling, gauge conversion, freight corridors, yard remodeling, traffic facility works, workshops, etc and for servicing and maintenance of track and other rail related infrastructure.

Vacant land not required by Railways for its immediate future operational needs is also proposed to be utilized for commercial development, wherever feasible, for the interim period through a Statutory Authority namely Rail Land Development Authority (RLDA) set up in 2007 through as act of Parliament. As the commercial development is a market driven activity, to be undertaken with the approval of the State Government/local authorities, assessment of revenue generation can only be done when specific schemes are taken up for development.

Railways chart out plan to bring down accidents

Bodies being wheeled out from railway tracks are a common occurrence. Official records suggest that on an average 3,500 people are killed annually in accidents along the suburban railway route.which is also referred to as the city’s lifeline.

Acknowledging that deaths along tracks were way too high, the railways have now charted out a plan to improve rail safety and bring down these accidents. A presentation in this regard was made before a state-appointed empowered committee (EC) for Mumbai’s transformation on Friday. Headed by chief secretary Jayant Kumar Banthia, the committee comprises senior government officials and eminent citizens.

Besides highlighting various steps taken internally to remedy the situation, railway officials sought assistance from the private sector for deployment of private security guards to check trespassing along vulnerable railway spots. Officials argued that existing railway police and home guard staff was inadequate to man such points round the clock.

EC members raised queries on lack of training for first responders to accidents. While railway officials discussed a plan for deployment of ambulance services at all stations for faster medical aid. Banthia said CR had to do more to curb accidents than WR.

The railways also made a presentation of a plan to get rid of open defecation and clean up areas in and around stations. EC members raised the issue of lack of easy access for commuters in and out of stations. Banthia, in particular, raised the issue of inconvenience faced by commuters at CST.

“It was decided to form a core panel (involving various stakeholders) to resolve this issue. The committee will take up three stations in the first phase,” EC member Narinder Nayar said.

The stations that could be taken up in the first phase could be Andheri, Churchgate, Kurla and others. Nayar informed that a plan to beautify the approach road to the domestic airport using private participation was also cleared.