Iron consignments from CPT to boost Railways’ revenue

The Railways is gearing up to transport its largest freight consignment in the past couple of years from the Cochin Port Trust. This comes after several years of nominal rail freight movement from the Ernakulam wharf. The Railways expects a huge revenue boost from this consignment.

This September, a ship carrying iron ore sourced from Jindal group of companies in Orissa will berth at the Ernakulam port. The first consignment, which comprises 52,000 tonnes of iron ore is expected to berth at the wharf by mid-September. If all goes well, a total of 1,00,000 tonnes might be shipped to the wharf, of which the majority is expected to be transported from Kochi through rail.

Gearing up to transport the material to Salem, the Railways Thiruvananthapuram division which is expecting a huge revenue boost through this movement is currently repairing and lifting the dilapidated rail track connecting the wharf to the Mattanchery halt station, on a war-footing. If the movement proves to be a success, the Railways will see increased transportation of goods from the Ernakulam wharf in the near future.

“We are in touch with both the Port Trust as well as the Jindal company. They are planning to source a total of 1,00,000 tonnes to the Salem Iron and Steel industry. If our first transportation proves to be a success, there are talks to transport the entire iron shipment through rail. This is expected to be a major boost to our revenue”, said Ernakulam area managar P L Ashok Kumar.

This is perhaps the first time that iron is being transported through rail from the Ernakulam wharf. Last year, even though huge quantities of Gypsum had been transported from the wharf to another centre, the freight had been subjected to derailment twice. “This had been a huge blow for us. The condition of our railway tracks had dilapidated over the years due to less freight movement. Occassionally, blocks of coal had also been transported to a few units in the country. However, we are expecting the much needed boost in the coming days, so we are not taking any chances and are in the process of repairing the tracks”, Ashok Kumar said.

The officials said that they have been in talks with the Cochin Port Trust for the past one year. The renovation work of the tracks which was started two weeks ago is expected to be completed by September 10. The total estimated cost of the work is Rs 50 lakh.

An AC waiting hall for women

If all goes well, the proposed high-class executive lounge and AC waiting hall at the South Railway Station will soon become a reality. Also to come up soon is an AC waiting Hall Exclusively for women. According to Ernakulam Area Manager P L Ashok Kumar, the design for the project has been approved of by the Thiruvananthapuram division. “We have received the nod from the higher-ups for it. The estimate will be prepared in the next couple of days and tenders called by the month-end,” he said.

The project envisages a paid high class executive lounge which will be helpful for the tourists. Since the South railway station does not have an upper class waiting hall, the proposed AC waiting hall will be a relief for the passengers who have to wait for long hours before boarding trains. Meanwhile, the Railways have also designed an AC waiting hall exclusively for women. “There will be sufficient number of bathrooms so that the women who arrive at the station can refresh at the railway station itself. This will hopefully serve passengers who come to Ernakulam for an interview or other occasions,” Ashok Kumar said.

He added that usually women commuters do not prefer to check in at a hotel just for a few hours. “There will be sufficient space and lockers to accommodate their luggage,” he added

Apart from the waiting class rooms, the Railways have also proposed a cafeteria for the public. According to Divisional Engineer Sasi, the work will be carried out fully by the Railways.

He said that the Railways had initially decided to set up a Multi-functional complex on the station premises. “The concept was to set up a full-fledged MFC, where everything would have been available under one roof for the public. However, it had to be dropped as no contractor came forward to take it up,” he said.

Moreover, “stations such as Thiruvalla and Alappuzha where MFCs were constructed have not yielded much benefit,” he said.

Rly gate signals to run on solar power

On a green path, the Thiruvananthapuram railway division authorities are close to running its 384 level crossing gates on solar power. The first solar-powered level crossing will be functional this month itself, said sources.

During the presentation of Railway Budget 2013-14, railway minister Pawan Kumar Bansal had announced the railways’ plans to harness solar power to energize 1,000 level crossings in the country to help the railways avail fiscal incentives, including tax breaks and depreciation benefits, besides a chance to earn carbon credits.

According to officials, solar lighting system would be used at level crossing gates. They will be equipped with solar panels, which will have charge control, back-up battery and LED light fittings. The solar panels will have the capacity to generate 1 KW power.

The initiative is part of the railways’ pro-environment action plan and energy conservation measures to use renewable energy sources.

“In the first phase, level crossings in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal will be powered with solar energy. We have 384 level crossings under Thiruvananthapuram division and they will be converted to solar-based in phase 1. The first solar powered level crossing has already been set up near Neyyattinkara,” said a top official.

Thiruvananthapuram division has 350 manned and 34 unmanned level crossings at present. “An amount of Rs 60 lakh has been earmarked for the solar-powered level crossings, which is actually insufficient. However, we can at least begin the new initiative. A tender for purchasing and installing the solar system will be invited in the coming,” the official added.